When I lived in Portland, I worked part-time for the Smart program, reading to and with kids with underdeveloped reading abilities. It was a great job, and being with those kids made my day. Here are some impressions about that time from 2001.
I'm still reading at SMART, and I love it every minute. I get to hang out with children for 6 hours a day, 2 days a week. There are a few who are standoffish, but there are those who dance and sing with me, show me the treasures in their pockets, perch on my shoulders or hang round my neck piggyback. They make me entirely happy! The other day Carlos stood in front of me, hands on hips, showing me his belt and his five year old dance stance, and sashayed around the room. In a moment, he was leading me around too. bum-ba-bum, bum. dum de de de dum. Sharhonda shrieks and runs in circles, hugging stuffed animals and drawing elaborate pictures. And Celest - at first I thought she was a little precocious, but she is my hero! She came in singing country - "she don't know she's beautiful, no, no, she don't know she's beautiful" and told me that country music makes her dizzy and her heart warm. I read with a little girl named Verenice, who is brand new and does not speak any English. She's in first grade, Celest is in kindergarten. They don't know each other. I was reading with Verenice when Celest walks in, and walks right up to Verenice. "I like your ponytails," says Celest. Verenice stares at her, uncomprehending, with frightened eyes. I explain, in halting Spanish, what Celest has said. "Celest," I say. "Come over here." She does. "Celest, Verenice, Verenice, Celest." They stare at each other. Still Verenice is wide eyed. A moment more. And then Celest, the most unhispanic kindergartener I know, says "hola." Verenice, quietly: "hola". And they part ways. My heart fell to the floor that moment!