My name is Dylan. I’m eight years old. When I was in kindergarten, my family moved to Seattle from the Philippines. English was hard. On the playground, I didn’t understand other kids. In class, when my teacher asked me a question, I just smiled. People called me “shy.”
No one understood me, and it made me sad.
In Team Read, when my tutor Phuong asked me to read, I looked the other way. When she tried to help me say hard words, I just stared at the page. I wanted to read, but I didn’t know where to start. I couldn’t speak, I just whispered. Phuong had to put her ear next to my mouth just to hear me.
One day, Phuong asked if I saw the Seattle Seahawks game. I love football. I love the Seahawks. I watch the games every weekend with my family. When I talked about the Seahawks, I got louder. “See,” said Phuong. “I knew you had a voice!”
Phuong and I talked about the Seahawks for a while. Phuong knew all about the team, even though she’s a girl. She knew the players’ names, like Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.
“Now that we’re talking, let’s work on some words,” said Phuong. She picked a dinosaur book. I love dinosaurs, but I couldn’t read the names. Phuong used a piece of paper to cover parts of the word. First she showed me “bron” then “to” then “saur” then “us.”
I said it all together: brontosaurus. “Aha,” said Phuong, “I knew you could do it!”
Math is easier for me than reading, so Phuong showed me another trick. “Math and reading are kind of the same thing,” she said. She pointed to the word dinosaur. “Di + no + saur = dinosaur,” she said. I used this same method to break up words like triceratops and velociraptor. “You’ve got it!” said Phuong.
The hardest thing about reading is remembering what I read. When we got to the end of the dinosaur book, Phuong asked me some questions about dinosaurs. I spent so much time figuring out how to say the hard words, I didn’t remember much. Instead of answering Phuong’s questions, I stared into space. I tried to pretend she wasn’t even there.
Phuong opened the book again. She pointed at the pictures. She had me reread parts of the book. The answers she wanted started to pop out at me. “Oh!” I said. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” Phuong smiled.
Now Phuong and I reread books three times. Every time I read a book, it gets easier.
At the start of second grade, I was still reading kindergarten books. I worked with Phuong and my teacher, Ms. Phothivongsa, all year. I used Phuong’s tricks on my own, like covering up parts of words and rereading hard books. I also started to read more: at home, at school, even on the bus.
Pretty soon, I could read first-grade books, then longer books with more words on each page. By the end of the year, I was reading the same books as other kids in my class. My English got better. I talked louder. People didn’t call me “shy” as much.