When we initially moved to the US and I started on my new job, I signed up to an amazing community activity called ‘Family for Learning’. The main purpose is to spread the fun and awareness of reading books again, and the team visits a number of elementary schools and special needs schools, with the sole aim of entertaining these kids while reading great books.
Not only do we read books for kids, but we also give them a copy of the book afterwards, and while listening to us reading aloud, they eat snacks we give them. All-in-all a wonderful experience for us and the kids … I hope.
I wrote about a previous reading experience some time ago, and I can proudly say that we visited another school to read some more cool books.
This time we visited a school for kids with special needs, which for some might seem a little daunting. A lot of people might think that kids with special needs can’t socialise, are wheelchair bound and reading a book for such kids would be impossible. There are of course a wide spectrum of disabilities, and the kids we visited that day were mainly autistic and some had behavioral issues such as severe ADHD and ODD.
… and before you say anything, this has nothing to do with rainman!
I prefer to refer to these kids a ‘special kids’ with super powers. They are all awesome in their own way and we need to show them how fun it can be to read.
I’m lucky to be the proud father of a kid with Down Syndrome and have been touched with his awesomeness. Yes, we have our moments of frustration, but man it’s cool to be his dad.
From reading books to my son, I know you have to give it a little more to get him engaged in the story, so I attempted to apply the same technique when reading books for the little group of superheroes I had been assigned to.
Despite the book only being about the ‘A-B-C’ I still got them involved; they laughed, pointed, shouted out and had fun. I could tell the teachers were happy too that we visited their classroom. You know when the kids are enjoying it, when they all crawl closer to you, and some kids even try to sit on your lap to read along.
We spent almost an hour with these cool kids and I got high fives and hugs when I left. As we left, each kid got the same books we had read for them and they were sooooo happy and quickly wrote their names in the books.
It’s the best way to kick off your work day! The rewards you get from reading to these kids, and the smiles from the teachers, are truly inspiring. I’m proud to be part of this little team of readers, who visit schools, connects with kids, show them how cool and fun it can be to read and share the experience with them. It’s even more rewarding to see their eyes light up when they realise that they can keep the books.
For some it might seem silly that kids can be so happy for a book; “Surely these kids have books at home and surely their parents can buy them new ones”. Unfortunately this is not always the case, and that’s were organisations like this one at my work comes in. For some kids, the books we hand out might actually be the first book they ever own.
So, if you can, you should try to participate in such events, or perhaps even suggest doing something similar in your organisation. Every little thing helps!