Written by Amber Chavez, Read Better Be Better Site Leader
Let me start off by saying that I think Read Better Be Better is an amazing program and by the time you are done reading this, I think…no, I know you will feel the same way about it. That’s how confident I am.
And yeah, you’re probably thinking, “You’re biased, you work for them! Why should I believe you?” Well, sure, I do work for Read Better Be Better, BUT I can 100% say with conviction that if I didn’t work for them, I would still feel the same way.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back about 15 years, to when I myself was a tiny 3rd-grader.
I was the type of kid who got straight A’s, I got gold stars in every one of my classes and I did my work while having fun in the process. Third-grade is when it all changed for me. No, I didn’t win the talent show, and no, I didn’t get my first kiss—that was the year I got my first F.
Imagine being 8–years–old again—the only thing on your mind is what the lunch lady is going to serve for lunch and who is going to swing first for baseball at recess. Not a care in the world. Until you receive your report card in the mail. You look over all the subjects and see nothing but A’s…until you get down to something called “Reading Comprehension” and see a giant red F next to it.
You swear it has demon eyes and starts speaking in tongues. Your world is shaken and you don’t know if you can go on. Trust me, it’s terrifying to a child. Especially to a child who doesn’t want to upset their parents. I was an only child, so my parents didn’t have any other kids to be proud of. Sure, I got more attention, but that came with its disadvantages.
So, of course, they were disappointed when they saw that failure mark. But more importantly, I felt like a failure. No 8-year-old should feel like a failure, they haven’t even gone through the trials and tribulations of puberty yet! But this was the end of the world for me. A hell of my own making. And I didn’t know what to do.
I remember my mother explaining to me that “Reading Comprehension” was just being able to comprehend what I can read. So, all I needed to do was get those scores up, and then I would get my A back. Easy enough, right? Well, there was one problem, I hated reading.
Why you ask? Because I couldn’t understand what was on the page. I could physically read the words, but I had no clue what they really meant. I remember reading sentences 40 or 50 times and still not understanding what it was really saying. It was boring. Soon that boredom turned to frustration, and that frustration turned to hate—this was not going to be easy.
My teacher couldn’t help me as in-depth as I needed, she had 30 other students to worry about. So, I was left to fall through the cracks. And mind you, this was before the State Legislators came up with policy that if a child’s literacy doesn’t improve by 3rd–grade, they don’t move on to 4th. I was moving on before I actually grasped the tools to succeed
This story has a light at the end of the tunnel, trust me. Sure, I was in the dark for a long time with reading, but I did have a saving grace, someone I owe most of my accomplishments to: my mom. She sat me down that summer and told me that I was going to work my butt off to improve my scores. She didn’t care how long it took, she just knew that I was not going to do it alone, she was going to help me.
She said, “Because reading is so important, it can be fun too. But most of all, once you know what things mean, you can understand what you are reading. Knowledge is the most powerful thing you can own. No one can ever take that away from you. Cherish it, because you are going to need it in this crazy world.” Even as a 3rd–grader, I knew that was powerful.
So, every day that summer, while my friends were outside playing Cops and Robbers on their bikes, going to the pool, and chasing down ice cream trucks, I was inside reading, and reading, and reading. My mother had me complete worksheets, comprise book reports, and even made little tests for me.
And I hated it. That summer was agonizing. My friends were out having the greatest summer of their lives and I was stuck inside the stuffy, suffocating house doing school work. It sucked!
But, guess what, that summer I did the unthinkable: I understood what I was reading. And it wasn’t a miracle, it wasn’t divine intervention, it was the blood, sweat, and tears—and believe me, there were a lot—that my mom and I put into those words on the pages. They finally flowed through my brain like chords on a guitar.
And I understood everything. I asked questions, sought out answers, made connections to everyday life. I even started to write my own stories. When my friends asked if I wanted to play outside, I actually said, “Nah, I think I’m gonna go to the library instead.”
I couldn’t have done it without my mom, because she took the time to help me succeed. She bettered my education when I needed it the most. If it hadn’t had been for her, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
So, why am I telling you this story? When I look back and think about my mom, I can’t help but wonder, what would have happened if she wasn’t there to help me? What if I really did fall through the cracks as so many other kids did? It hurts to think about all those other kids who didn’t have the resources to better their education, no one to teach them about reading comprehension.
However, since Read Better Be Better was founded in 2014, there have been tons of people who care about children’s reading comprehension. Read Better Be Better‘s mission is to help students feel like they are important, and that being able to understand what they are reading is important. RBBB’s Site Leaders devote their time to improving young minds and offering answers to questions, all while doing so in a fun and entertaining way.
They have children choose what they want to read, and support students helping other students to build a strong community within the classroom. They pride themselves on the love and support they provide for their students, but also giving them the necessary tools to improve their literacy skills—just like my mom did for me all those years ago.
I honestly wish there was a program like this when I was a kid, so many students didn’t have the same privilege I had; someone who was able to take the time to help me succeed. There are now so many more people who work towards improving the literacy crisis in Arizona, and love doing what they do.
Those words my mother told me are truly at the basis of what Read Better Be Better does, “Knowledge is the most powerful thing you can own, and once you have it, no one can ever take it away from you.” •
If you would like to learn more about being a Site Leader with Read Better Be Better, visit our Get Involved page here.