Each year, Rashi middle school students participate in the Jewish Coalition for Literacy (JCL) elective, serving as reading buddies and mentors to students at a local public school in Dedham. JCL is a program of the Jewish Community Relations Council. Here are two reflections on the experience, by a student and a teacher.
By Avi G., grade 6
Every Monday I go to the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) in Dedham to read with a young boy who attends kindergarten at the school. That young boy is named Carlos. One of the most memorable experiences that I have had this past year with Carlos actually took about six months. He wanted to read the book Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold. I said that would be alright, not knowing that inside this book was a tale of a hopeful African-American girl who would fly above New York City late at night, looking at all the places she loved in her city.
As we began reading, Carlos’ teacher, Mrs. L, stopped us and said that maybe we should wait until later in the year to read this (it was only November at the time). I wasn’t completely sure why, because Carlos and I hadn’t quite reached the heavier parts of the book and I had never read the book before. However, I trusted Mrs. L and began reading a book about turkeys with Carlos.
About six months had passed and now we only had a few more sessions with our friends from ECEC, when suddenly I saw Tar Beach sitting on one of the shelves. I had completely forgotten about it and was excited for us to read it. I touched base with Carlos on how his weekend was and if he was excited for the summer. The latter was extremely unnecessary, I could see that he was ready to enter first grade by now. I asked him if he remembered that, at the beginning of the year, we had begun reading a book but stopped and said that maybe we would read it later. He said no, but Mrs. L told me that she remembered that and handed me Tar Beach.
Carlos and I sat down and began to read. There were some words in that book that we don’t use now and I made sure that Carlos knew that our society had moved beyond that time and its language. When we finished, I asked Carlos if he liked the book. He nodded but I could tell that he didn’t really know what to make of it, so, as we did when he didn’t understand any book, I helped him summarize it and I knew that this book would be long remembered in both of our minds. I’m sure that when I am an adult I will always remember JCL, Carlos, and Tar Beach.