A few years ago, I was reading with a 2nd grader named Jacob. He was a delightful, easy going and engaging student. During our time together, he became a more confident reader, taking over much of the reading himself. Word pattern books were a great source of success for him so we chose that type of book to read together.
On this particular day, we chose a book about transportation. Part way through our reading session, we came to two pages about how cars are powered. On one side of the page was a solar powered car and the sentence “this car is solar powered”. On the opposite page was a picture of a gas powered car with the sentence, “this car is gas powered.” Jacob was reading to me so, I stopped him to talk about what we had just read and engage him with the story. Looking at him I said, “Isn’t that fascinating. Cars can be gas powered or sun powered. My car is gas powered. How does your car run?” And with total excitement in his voice and not missing a beat, he replied “Hotwired and you don’t need a key or anything to start it.” In my mind, I was sure that I could think of at least one or two innocuous reasons for a person to be driving a hot wired car but, I loved that for him, this was all about the magic of not needing a key.
Later that day, as I thought about this encounter, it occurred to me how little we know about the realities of these children’s lives. SMART is the great equalizer; a place where there is no judgment and you are not defined by your circumstances. Whatever else either one of us may be struggling with, fretting over, distracted by, for this 30 minutes we are just two readers, sharing our undivided attention with each other, celebrating books and in the process, exploring the infinite nature of what is possible. It is that mutually beneficial exploration, that has kept me involved with this program for two decades.