Helping a Vulnerable Child Embrace an Exceptional Gift

By Eric Steckel | March 5, 2019

by Linda Joseph, Volunteer Succeeding by Reading tutor

This spring, we are excited to share the words of Linda Joseph, a volunteer reading tutor working with our Succeeding by Reading program.
Jadon and volunteer reading tutor Linda Joseph during Succeeding by Reading session.

You helped Jadon learn to read in English, his second language. His first language growing up was American Sign Language.

This year I am proud to work with a student named Jadon who has blossomed in his reading. But it took time, trust and a boost of confidence that came from an exceptional skill he possesses. When we began working together, Jadon was withdrawn and very unsure of himself. We discussed that the Succeeding by Reading clinic was a special learning time that focused just on him, and the more we worked together, the more success he would experience. I also promised fun.

Jadon was having trouble reading in class and keeping up with the other students. As his teacher Ms. Soto pointed out, students know when they’re not at the same level as others. He felt “dumb.” He knew the alphabet sounds and worked very hard to sound words out. However, there are words where the rules do not apply, or where certain letters are silent, and they gave him difficulty.

At a loss, I reviewed notes from our first-session interview, and realized that for Jadon, English is his second language, and his first language is ASL, American Sign Language! Jadon lives with his mother, father and aunt, who are all deaf. Jadon grew up learning how to communicate by using his hands. For Jadon, learning to speak English came later. However, none of his friends knew that he Signs. He kept it to himself, as if it were a shameful secret.

As I worked hard to find things that would help Jadon’s development in phonics, Clinic Coordinator Bekah Wilson suggested that I also invite Jadon to teach me to Sign. This really engaged him. I talked to him about how special he is and that knowing an entirely different language indicates his high intelligence. (I include confidence-building comments as often as I can. His favorite is when I refer to him as “exceptional.”)

“As we read the book together, you could see the pride in him grow.”

Jadon signing in American Sign Language

Because of your donations, we’re able to buy books like the Signing Book that made Jadon so happy.

One day, Bekah brought a special book to the clinic: a Signing Book for children. When we gave it to Jadon he lit up like a Christmas tree. As we read the book together, you could see the pride in him grow.

As we wrapped up our session that day, Jadon appeared happy and engaged. “Finally!” I thought to myself. During our Signing time, he asked if he could keep the book. Bekah said “Yes.”

Then Jadon asked if he could show the book to his friends and teach them about Signing. A chorus of bells went off in my head and I thought my heart would burst! I managed to calmly respond, “That’s a wonderful idea!” He took the signing book and immediately shared it with another student.

For the first time since we began working together, Jadon left the session smiling. And Ms. Soto reports that he is more confident, raising his hand in class and participating more. Thank you Children Rising for the difference you make in the lives of students.

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