Tutor Tales, Volume 32
Do you know what really frustrates me at work? Seeing that the children who need all that extra help with their schoolwork have virtually nothing to read at home.
A couple of days ago, while looking over Scrap Metal's assignment notebook, I was reminded that one of his July projects in Reading class was an oral book report. Since I hadn't heard anything about it since the start of the month, I asked him whether he had prepared for it himself.
"Oh, yeah! The oral book report!" he said, slapping his forehead. "That's for tomorrow."
"Tomorrow???" I squeaked. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
His eyes widened and his shoulders hunched up: a common defensive gesture which makes many seven year olds too cute to kill.
"Well, what book were you planning to do your report on?"
"I don't know. I don't have many books."
Didn't I know it?
It took me a few seconds to appraise his shelves, which were tucked neatly out of sight in the same cabinet used for the wide-screen television and game console. (No bloody comment.) Ninety-nine percent of what he had were his dogeared coursebooks and activity books from last school year and the preparatory level before that. There was exactly one book that hadn't been written for some explicitly academic purpose--and sure enough, it had last year's "Book Swap" sticker on it.
The Book Swap was an inspired idea from Scrap Metal's first grade Reading teacher. She told her students to bring one book each to class at the start of the year, which they would then exchange with someone else. There were a total of four swaps scheduled over the school year, the objective being to get each child to read four books he might otherwise never have tried. And even parents who don't see much need for leisure reading can be happy about getting, in one sense, four books for the price of one.
"It looks as if you'll have to make your report about this one," I said, pulling it out.
His face looked a bit pinched, but he nodded. "Can we remove the Book Swap sticker first, so my teacher doesn't know it's from last year?"
"Of course, Scrappy. No problem."
For the next few minutes, we sat opposite each other at his study table, with the book like a wall between us, so that he could scratch away at the tell-tale sticker and I could read the story.
It wasn't much of a story. =/
Do you know those books that you can get customised as presents for children? Whoever prints them will put any name you ask for the main character and allow for the personalisation of other elements. Well, someone in Canada got such a book special ordered for some boy named David, who ended up selling it or giving it away so that the supplier of the biggest used books retailer in the Philippines was able to ship it over, at which point it ended up in one of the bargain bins for a Filipino parent who buys books in bulk to find. And then that parent's child tossed it into the Book Swap pool last year, where my tutee found it.
So it's no surprise that the story was pretty silly. At least the illustrations were bright and it had some great pop-up effects and interactive elements. What a sad deal for a boy's only book, though.
Before I left, we were able to prepare a short report and rehearse it.
I'll have to think about getting him some quality books on my own.