As I walked into to the library full of colorful, wooden bookshelves, I spotted Melvin, a young boy from rural Guatemala, who I would tutor every Monday. He sat at his table with a seat for me, and as he spotted me, his face lit up, he raised his arms and screamed my name. We started with math homework, which he ran through with ease. And then, we would read. Melvin detested reading and would slouch into his seat hiding behind his little fingers. It often took multiple attempts to convince Melvin to let me read to him.
Each week, I showed up determined to get Melvin to read. I knew he didn’t want to but I was persistent. Melvin told me that his parent’s didn’t understand English, and did not read to him. He would always become frustrated, pushing the book away and pouting with each page I read, and as other students picked out books, I watched as he would sink deeper into his seat hoping that time would go by faster. I felt his pain as he covered his eyes, denying himself of learning how to read. It hurt me inside knowing that he was rejecting books primarily because he struggled with reading and speaking English.
I’d often think about Melvin on the days I didn’t have to tutor him, and how I could help. I remembered Melvin’s favorite superhero was Spiderman, it was on his backpack, lunchbox, and even his sweatshirt, and this gave me an idea. I made a trip to the bookstore and bought Spiderman stickers and a Spiderman book.
During our next session, I pulled out the stickers and promised that I would give him one if he read a book with me. He fidgeted, looking for an excuse, but the stickers made his eyes gleam and he couldn’t resist. The reward system I created with Melvin began to work and as he became bored of a generic library book I pulled out my secret weapon, the Spiderman book. He grabbed it out of my hands opening to the first page and begged me to start reading.
From then on, we would read books together every time we met. He would look forward to Monday’s and to reading time. I felt I was Melvin’s greatest opportunity for help and made sure to do my best to encourage him. It was like ‘follow the leader’ as I read one page, he would repeat the words back to me, and eventually he became the one who read to me.
Working with Melvin taught me to tackle problems by creating solutions. His reliance on me, made me want to help others, and the values I’ve gained from tutoring have transferred over to my academics, making me work harder and thankful for all the opportunities presented to me. Melvin’s growth as a reader has also motivated me to overcome challenges I face, and to encourage others, knowing that a successful outcome will be worth it.