Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking for Book-Loving Memphians

Hey, all book-loving Memphians, 

I'm looking for people who a) love, love, love the experience of reading, and b) who have an hour to spare a week with a hilarious, intelligent kid. 

Here's the deal: I teach in inner-city Memphis, and the majority of kids I work with and have met in the Binghamton neighborhood are struggling readers. If you think back to the subjects you studied in elementary school, you know that you have to be able to read to succeed in every area except for math. So, imagine you are a kid whose parents work 6 days a week, who is one of many siblings, and whose parents can't read or speak English. Your parents don't teach you to read or help you with homework, simply because they can't. You don't sit in your mom's lap and read a bedtime story. She doesn't have time to do that, or maybe she doesn't have the ability. As a result, you haven't seen a love of reading modeled. Your parents' favorite books haven't been shared. There is no love of literature present in your home. You learn less words from the very beginning, and are always at a disadvantage in any reading-related subject. Going to the library and reading are drudgery. It's just too hard, and why bother when there are video games and Netflix? 

We know why these kids should bother, and we have the ability to teach them in a fun way. Here is what I am hoping to do in order to foster reading success and possible resulting mentor relationships (should these connections "take"): I would like to match you up with a really smart kid who could care less about reading. You would read once a week with that kid for an hour. You and the kid would choose fun books, and you could share your childhood favorites. You could share your passion for books. For sixty minutes a week, you could do that "lap reading" that research shows is so effective in developing strong readers (minus the lap; please don't engage in actual lap reading!!). 

I would introduce you to a kid who needs help, and we would schedule a few sessions in their home (so that other adults would be present, so their parents could become comfortable with you, etc.).  I would be present for one or two sessions, but after that, it would be up to you and the child to schedule sessions. If the parent felt comfortable enough later, you could meet at the local community center/restaurant (or Sonic when warmer), within walking distance of all the kids' homes. 

Here's the thing: I'd do this with every single one of these kids if I could. I'd love to meet them up at the community center for a soda and a burger, and read really funny things while we're eating and visiting. But I can't. Even before I had kids, there just wasn't enough time. But what I can do is matchmake. I can match kids who are in dire need with grown- ups who are able to give a few minutes. 

The schedule would be completely up to you. The reading material? Up to you. Your time with these kids has the potential to be life-changing---and I don't mean just for the kids. 

My goal is trifold: a) Give the kids more time reading aloud and handling vocabulary they don't know while being supported by an experienced reader; b) foster a passion for reading within these amazingly smart kids; and c) should the reading go well, perhaps you will see fit to serve as a casual, as-needed mentor for the kid as he/she grows up. 

Please email me at if you are interested. The majority of this work would occur in a very safe, neighborly part of Binghamton, Memphis.

Here are a couple of the highly intelligent kids who would absolutely love spending time with you (and who would also begrudgingly read). 

Some of the sweetest girls you'll ever meet

A pancake eating contest at IHOP last winter 

Much of the group with my cousins Brittain and Coleman and my own two kids, Godson and Shekina, at the park this summer. 

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