After being absent from Reading Buddies for a week due to illness, I was a bit nervous to return. Since we had only met twice, I was worried that [A], my buddy, wouldn’t want to see me or had forgotten my name. My group was a little late arriving to Pecan Springs due to traffic, but the moment I opened the door to where the kids were, my worries were quickly quieted. [A] looked up from the table and as soon as she saw me, sprinted to me, grabbed my waist and hugged me so hard that I couldn’t breathe.

As we walked back to the table, [A] informed me that she went to the library and had checked out six books for us to read this week. I was really surprised that she took that kind of initiative over our time together and that she had selected rather hefty books. We read a few horror stories at first, then transitioned to a few bilingual stories. Her Spanish was not perfect, and we did need to sound through several words, but the fluidity with which she processed the language was a marked difference from how she read the English underneath.

After reading all six books, we decided to play some games on the white board. After a couple of rounds of tic-tac-toe, we decided to play Hangman—the perfect mix of spelling practice and fun. It was during Hangman that I realized that her spelling wasn’t quite as fluid as her reading. Her hangman sentence, “Gabi and [A] are the best reading buddies” turned out to be spelt “Gabe nt [A] re de bizt reedn boodys.” This was a recurrent theme throughout the game; the only word spelled correctly consistently was her name.

My new goal for us this semester is to work on [A]’s spelling and have the same patience she has for reading be translated to spelling. She gets very impatient with herself while we are working through how to spell a word, and I think a more subtle or fun approach will be needed. I was thinking about giving her a word list every week to study, but I don’t want to add more stress to her academics or detract from school work so I’m going to need to think of another approach. I am curious to see if she has the same issues with spelling in Spanish.

Finally, I want to make sure that I continue to actively, positively reinforce [A]. While playing Hangman, I made one of my phrases “[A] is so smart.” After she got it, she told me “You keep on calling me smart and you are the only person who has ever told me that. Why is that?” I kind of felt like I had been sucker punched in the stomach when she told me that. As a child, I was constantly told I was smart, probably too often, and my parents consistently praised me and validated me. [A] obviously had not experienced the same. She is such a bright girl, and I am so excited to work with her and help her have confidence in herself.

– Gabi Velasco, Pecan Springs Elementary volunteer

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