Personal Experience as a Reading Mentor
Last year, I read to a third grader once a week as part of a great program called Everybody Wins Iowa.
My mentee, a first generation African immigrant, often selected books with pink spines and usually had a princess with blonde hair on the cover.
I do believe that kids should be allowed to "read" what interests them. However after observing the student pick the same type of book week after week, I decided to try an experiment. I wanted to see if she might find another book interesting if I gave her a couple options. Together we went to the shelf and we each picked a few books.
The book I selected was interesting to me because it had a recipe in it. I write a food blog in addition to Cup of Leadership so I like to find books that can lead to cooking. I also have a personal bias toward books that introduce me to new concepts. The book I selected is called The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck. The main character is a girl from Cameroon.
We had time to read all the books we both selected. I shared with my mentee that my husband liked to cook so I was going to have him make the Bitterleaf Stew. That is the recipe that is integral to the story. She remembered and asked me about it next time we got together. I was able to show her a picture of the stew and explained the adaption that my husband made because of an ingredient he wasn't able to find in our town.
This experience provided two lessons for me:
- I was reminded that a mentor/mentee relationship is built on trust and conversation. We got to know each other better because of the conversation that came about when I asked my mentee if I could select some books.
- As I write this post on January 27, 2016, it is a day that has been set aside to celebrate multicultural children's books. This day made me think about my experience. I realize that having multicultural literature available may not be enough. As leaders of kids, we have to speak up in order for kids to become curious about subjects and characters that are beyond mass market books.
Cup of Leadership is a blog for people who lead children.
Deanne Bryce is a writer for young children and an advocate for personal leadership at all ages. This post is part of a series of posts where we think about conversations that lead kids in new ways. Suggest similar story or leadership topic by connecting on Twitter.