Monday, 15 November 2010

How Time Flies

I can't believe that I am already in my third week of being a reading buddy.  I went with a feeling of slight trepidation for my second session last week.  Would I recognise my buddy in a sea of children's faces, would he be enthusiastic or would he really not be that bothered whether I turned up or not?

I entered the school, walked up to the classroom and was confronted by two boys who were messing about around the desks.  One of them cheekily asked, "who are you?"  "I'm here as a reading buddy" I answered.  "Who with?"  "Careem"  "Well" he said pointing at his partner in crime, "that's Careem." 

I have to say I was slightly confused.  Really?  This was the boy that I had read with last week?  He didn't look quite as I had remembered, but then as we had been outside he had mostly had his hood up covering part of his face.  Ah well, my memory isn't what it was.  I smiled, "well, I'm really sorry I didn't recognise you, you had your hood up last time...."  The boys fell about laughing and I could feel my face turning pink and glowing with embarrassment.  I'd been well and truly taken for a mug.  "Thank you" I said curtly.  "That's really mean."

With that I could hear a cacophony of voices as the rest of the children piled up the stairs.  I saw with relief their teacher heading towards me.  She looked at me quizzically.  "Hi, I'm here to read with Careem..."  "Oh yes" she said quickly, "he's on his way up so just grab him."  Great I thought, but as I looked up I saw him ferreting in his bag and pulling out a book.  Thank goodness, I did recognise him after all.

I grinned as he approached with book in hand.  It turned out that he had researched tube trains in Birmingham as we had discussed the previous week but understandably couldn't find any reference to an underground in that particular city.  True to my word I had also looked it up and could reliably tell him that there were four underground systems in the UK; the London Undergound, London Dockland Light Railway, Tyne and Wear and Glasgow. 

This time we read all about space and how astronauts shower and poo in zero gravity.   What did I say before about learning something new....!  We even used the school's computer to google some answers to questions that had been raised whilst reading the book and Careem showed enthusiam and enjoyment.  I think tomorrow I'll be a little more relaxed and won't be taken in so easily by cheeky schoolboys!

On a more domestic front, this last week we have celebrated our little boy turning two.  It seems like only yesterday that he was a tiny babe in arms, weighing hardly anything and not able to do much other than eat, sleep and poo.  Now he is a tough little toddler, who runs everywhere, learns a new word everyday, grins cheekily when he knows he's about to do something wrong and weighs seemingly a ton.  Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but when I'm carrying him in our baby backpack he is heavy!

He's had a terrific few days, playing with his cousins, receiving birthday gifts and generally having a lot of time and attention lavished upon him.  I'm just trying to take in every moment and really enjoy every stage he goes through.  It won't be long before he's ready to leave home so I don't want to miss anything.

Time really does fly.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

You Learn Something New...

Yesterday was my first session as a Reading Buddy.  I turned up at the inner city primary school, which nestles between some university buildings and a church and had to buzz an intercom to be let through the gates.  Some of the children were still playing outside and as I walked into the playground I was overcome by feelings of nostalgia and nervousness.  As I trekked to the school office I felt like it was my first day back at school.

Inside the school it appeared to be a little chaotic and somewhat cosy.  The corridors were filled with pictures and fairy lights and I could hear a choir of young voices from somewhere down the hall.  I was shown upstairs to the year 6 classroom and waited for the arrival of the teacher. 

When she breezed in she quickly told me that my reading buddy was of dual nationality and although a competent reader, he sometimes didn't actually understand the meaning of the words.  It was suggested that we read some non-fiction and that I concentrate on building up his comprehension of the English language.

When Careem* arrived, he had chosen two books.  One on tunnels and the other on continents.  I followed him back to the playground where we found a bench to sit at.  His interest in these subjects was obvious and he immediately started to read the book about tunnels.  I was very impressed as he read fluently and with ease and when I asked him various questions he really seemed to know the meaning of the words.

Then he picked up the book on continents.  "Do you know the continents?" I asked before he opened the book.  "Oh yes" he said and began to reel them off.  My mind was already racing ahead with thoughts about what else I could ask him as he seemed so knowledgeable.  So when Careem said "North America and South America" I nodded and replied "Yes the Americas are all one."  I noticed that he looked at me a little strangely but he didn't say anything.

So we opened the book and he began to read.  We went through Europe and Australia and Asia.  There was a brief paragraph about Mount Everest and a line which mentioned the word "summit".  "Do you know what summit means?" I asked.  "Oh yeah, it's like when we're doing summit" he said.  I tried not to laugh and asked him to read the sentence again.  As he did he eyes widened and he said "oh I know, it means the top of the mountain."  His understanding is actually very good, he just hadn't concentrated when he looked at the sentence the first time.

Then we got to the page with the title North America.  He read that through, turned to the next page and I saw, with much embarrassment that it said South America.  There was nothing for it, I turned to him and said "Careem I apologise.  You were right and I was wrong.  North America and South America are two different continents."  He glanced across and then said "I thought so."  Then he pointed to the map and said "They are joined together though" and then looked at me.  I really think he was trying to make me feel better.

All too soon our thirty minutes came to an end.  I had discovered a little about him during our reading time, such as the fact that he had been to Somalia when he was three and so missed out on nursery and went straight to primary school.  I know he has a bike and loves to ride.  I also know that he is a very intelligent boy with an excellent grasp of the English language and an articulate reader.  He also knows a lot more about continents than I do.

You learn something new every day.

*I have changed my reading buddy's name for the purposes of privacy.