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I’m ‘booked’ for remainder of year

Reading has always been important to me. After all, you can’t be in the newspaper business and not be informed. But, where did I miss the story about the young boy who was visiting his grandmother, decided to go fishing and found a raft?
I don’t know the outcome yet, but hopefully I will over the next few weeks. I’m counting on a fourth grader at Unicoi County Intermediate School to help me find the answer.
As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, I recently volunteered for the Erwin Kiwanis Club’s school reading program. Until recently, I didn’t realize such a great opportunity existed. The program allows Kiwanians to spend about 30 minutes per week with a student to help improve their reading skills. The students read to the adults from a preselected book.
I showed up at the office to await the arrival of my student. Would we connect? Would I know the words he was stumped on? It seems that students are advancing so much these days, that elementary school is learning what I did in high school.
He eased my doubts right away with a big smile on his face. Then he began talking and showing me the cap he had found to a small acorn. We talked of squirrels and their love of acorns. My mind was racing to the small squirrel I ran over the day before. It still sends chills over me. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I sometimes have a hard time making decisions. I, however, am a speedy decision maker compared to a squirrel. Will he go right? Will he go left? Right, left, stay, right, left, stay – splat. I made the decision for him.
After a brief acorn discussion, we walked to our small office destination, picked a chair and got on with the reading. My young student had read the book before and knew the plot, but he kept the details hidden as he began sharing the words with me. With his small finger, he followed each word. At times I helped him sound them out. Sometimes I had to explain the meaning of the word so he would get a better understanding. I even read to him at one point when he got tired.
We discussed what was taking place and he related his own real-life adventures that were similar. I could sense his pride in what we were accomplishing and the joy he felt by being able to share the story with me.
I’m not sure who benefited the most from the experience. It was a nice break to just get away from the office for a moment and it was nice to spend some time with my new friend. For a moment we were both transported to the fantasy setting of the book. It is amazing how words can be so descriptive that they paint a visual portrait for the brain.
After approximately 30 minutes we found a stopping point and came back to reality. I would part back to work and he would go back to the classroom until next week. I am anxious to see the outcome of the story and see my new reading partner again. We’ve got many more sessions left until the end of the year. I am not sure which one of us will learn the most. I can help with the words but the life lessons are so great for each of us. Who knows, maybe he will have my job someday and be providing you with the news or a personal column about an old guy that came and helped him with the big words many years ago.
As soon as we came out of the small office, I saw many other fellow Kiwanis members waiting for a space to share with their young readers. My good friend Chris Gilbert was there. He has one of the best personalities of anyone I know. He takes good-hearted teasing at nearly every Tuesday’s Kiwanis Club meeting.
As I started to leave, I saw Chris being introduced to his young, male student. “I was hoping for a girl to help me,” he said while looking up at Chris. I gave Chris a quick glance and he said, “I get no respect from any age.”