I started Team Read as an 8th grader working at my old elementary school, Leschi Elementary. A student who had worked as a tutor the previous semester came into my class and did a short presentation on what the program did for students. I decided to become a coach because I held the stories I read then, and earlier in my education, dear to my heart. I remember how fun it was to read my favorite series like Junie B. Jones and later, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I remember how it felt to be transported to their worlds through the words and my imagination. I wanted to give that opportunity to other students who were struggling to read the books they were interested in. When I was very young, I treasured the days when my grandma would take me to the library and pick new books to check out. I think a good relationship with books and reading early on is crucial to success later in school and in life.

 When I began as a reading coach, of course there were challenges. Sitting down to read after a long day of school can be difficult and frustrating. Over the years I’ve worked with kids who, when told we could go for a short walk around the cafeteria for a break, decided to sprint around the halls with their friend and wouldn’t come back until the end of the session. I’ve had students who tried their hardest every day to bargain their way out of reading. There are distractions, things that happened earlier in the day, and insecurities around their reading skills that can all accumulate in a student’s mind by the time they meet their tutors for Team Read. It’s important to remember this and present yourself to your student as a person who cares about their well-being first. Asking about their day and their interests before hopping right into reading helps to build a bond with a student. Coaches can then determine what energy to bring to a session, while also allowing a student to feel heard and like their feelings matter.

One of my favorite memories is actually from this year. I was paired with a quiet and somewhat shy student who, for the first few weeks, would give mostly one-word answers or a shoulder shrug to anything I asked them. I tried my best to connect with them (which was especially hard virtually) but nothing seemed to work. In my final weeks working with the student, they really opened up. They answered comprehension questions enthusiastically, even asking some questions on their own about the topic in the book. I noticed that they seemed more engaged in every session and overall excited to read. I was really proud of them and I learned that not giving up on building that bond with your student, even if it seems like they’re uninterested, can have a profound impact on their relationship with reading.

Though this year was my last as a Team Read coach, I have learned many skills that have helped me make the most out of every session with my student reader. One piece of advice I would like to pass on to any new coaches or return coaches is this: don’t be afraid to get creative and make Team Read fun. You can really tell the difference between a student who is dreading sitting down to read and one who is excited and ready to learn. A student’s attitude can be greatly influenced by that of their coach’s. You can make up a game to play as a break, ask your student to read the dialogue in a story the way they think the character would sound, or do something simple like rewards like stickers for active participation. Reading stories should be fun and coaches have the unique ability to show readers how exciting it can be!