Our Summer of Love

Summer came and I was ready to fulfill my promise to Victor. One afternoon I brought along my laptop to the shelter and while I waited for him to arrive, showed some other kids the reading program, as well as the case manager. I offered to make the program available for free to any kid in her facility.

“Perfect timing,” she said, pointing to two computers sitting on the floor, “We’re setting up a computer area with internet access. It should be set up next week or so.”

Victor’s mother Maria passed by and, observing the cluster of kids entranced by the program, pulled me aside.

“Do you think this could work for me?” she asked, revealing that she had gotten a “D” in her ESL class.

Now Maria is a smart woman and her bad grade in ESL is a reflection of – I’m not sure what it’s a reflection of, but it’s not a reflection of her intelligence.

She asked if I would tutor her.

If both mother and son were on the same program, it was more likely that she would establish a routine for Victor to do the program for 10 minutes 3-4 times a week (the minimum requirement for the program to succeed.)

“Yes,” I said.

Maria and I had our first session the next day in a common room, which was the only place where we could access a neighbor’s wireless connection until the shelter’s wifi arrived. Maria liked the Reading Kingdom, but Victor LOVED it.

The next week he ran to greet me. “Did you bring your computer?”

He spotted my computer bag.

“YAY!!!!!!!!” he shouted, flinging his arms around my waist. Then he did a wacky hula jig while chanting, “The Reading Kingdom, the Reading Kingdom! Yay, the Reading Kingdom.”

It was the most outrageously perfect product endorsement I’ve ever experienced. If Big Bird himself called me up and said he loved the Reading Kingdom it wouldn’t come close to how over the moon I felt watching this kid dance to the joy of learning to read.

We sat down to do the program. I asked him if he had done any sessions with his mom during the week and he said he hadn’t. Disappointed, I began our session, and afterwards spoke with Maria who told me that she had no internet access in her living quarters. Without it, she would have to bring her laptop into the common room and do it with Victor.

Then why haven’t you done this? I thought to myself.

She said she would.

Next week Victor was waiting for me, eager to do the Reading Kingdom, which he hadn’t seen since our last week’s session. He begged me, I mean literally begged me to ask his mother to do the program with him during the week. Again Maria promised to do so, but didn’t. The third week she demonstrated the problem by bringing herself, Victor and her two other younger kids into the common room. All chaos erupted. It was impossible for her to create a calm learning environment for Victor while watching the other two kids in the room.

I would have to wait for the shelter’s computer area to arrive.

Try the Reading Kingdom with our free 30-day trial here.