This entry is a follow-up to an entry from March 1, 2015 entitled Why I Teach: To Help Students Discover the Joy of Reading about a student named Laurel.
In fourth grade, Laurel’s reading comprehension scores soared as a result of her prolific use of AudioBooks.
Fast forward one year and Laurel is in the winter of fifth grade. At that time, AudioBooks were not just beneficial to her, but crucial. To keep up with the quantity of reading assigned, Laurel relied on AudioBooks. Without them, she often felt like she was drowning in a sea of pages.
One day, the school librarian approached me, describing a grant that she and two other librarians were writing. It would fund the acquisition of AudioBooks for the three elementary schools in the district.
Knowing my students have benefitted from them, the librarian asked me if I’d be willing to write a testimonial to include with the application. It occurred to me that including the point of view of students, along with my own, might be even more convincing.
When I asked Laurel if she would like to describe how AudioBooks have helped her, I explained she could give her feedback without her name included. Sitting up proudly, she insisted, “I want my name attached. I want to help other kids get AudioBooks because they have been so helpful for me.”
After asking Laurel some questions, I scribed her exact words. She beamed with pride when she saw them in the grant application and discovered she was the only student, among quite a few teachers, with testimonials included in the grant.
The following are Laurel’s words:
“I am a very slow reader and I’m not too good with fluency. When I’m reading, I have to concentrate on reading and not understanding it. Sometimes I read a couple of pages and I can barely remember what they were.
But when someone suggested AudioBooks I agreed to try it out. It really helped me understand what I was reading and helped me keep up in class. I think it’s a great way to learn and that many other people should know about it and try it because it can really help them.
How AudioBooks are helpful: “Some people like to imagine how the story is and its sometimes hard to imagine the book because when you read, you want to read the words. You don’t know what you’re reading sometimes. Sometimes, you get super stressed because you don’t know what a word means and there’s no one to ask.
With AudioBooks, it says the word. You may understand it or you may not but you can listen to it over and over again until you get it because you can hear the word in context. It helps you read faster. You may be a slow reader. You may think all of your classmates are ahead of you. The AudioBooks help you keep up in a way that you don’t get sick of reading. Without AudioBooks it is stressful. It is hard to keep up with everyone because they are such fast readers.”
In mid May an email arrived in my inbox from the librarian:
“Good news! The K-5 librarians were awarded the “AudioBooks and Interactive eBooks grant….Your letters of support were invaluable, especially the note from Laurel, who spoke powerfully and personally about the effect that using AudioBooks has had on her education…”
After reading this, bursting with excitement, Laurel exclaimed, “I’m a world changer! Well…maybe not a world changer, but definitely a school changer!” She insisted that we call her mom. Neither one of them could contain their enthusiasm.
That afternoon, Laurel called many friends and relatives, even those living overseas. Especially meaningful to her was telling her younger cousin, who her family suspects will be diagnosed with dyslexia in the near future.
After working with Laurel for two years, I had to say goodbye in June. I told her that she has taught me how to be a better teacher, helping me understand how students with dyslexia feel and what they need. I also told her while she is already a school changer, she is a future world changer. Keep being yourself and speaking up for what you believe in.
Fast forward to a few days ago when I ran into Laurel and her family at a local restaurant. After exchanging hugs and I miss yous, I told her mom that working with Laurel completely changed the way that I work with students with dyslexia.
This summer, I tutored a student whose school had not been servicing him properly. Instead of telling his parents to work on drill and kill exercises with him, I told them that I would work on decoding and fluency with him and that they should enjoy AudioBooks with him to increase his vocabulary and love of reading. After the first night, his mom could not believe how engaged he was in listening and talking about the book.
With tears in her eyes, Laurel’s mom said, “He is lucky to be working with you.” And she said that she would be honored to when I asked her if I could put her in touch with the student’s mother, to help her advocate for her son.
Working with Laurel taught me the power of AudioBooks. I can’t wait to order them for my current students, using the grant money that Laurel’s powerful and authentic words helped to get.