Sunday, March 3, 2019


She is one of the quiet ones.

Comes in and gets busy.

Completes assignments.

Responds to my comments on her writing.

Earned an A for the last trimester.

And yet, she is so so quiet.

L never volunteers in class.

Hates to be called on.

Doesn't participate in after school clubs or play any sports.

Doesn't offer information about herself or her family.

I know she lives with her mom and two high-school aged brothers. When I look her up in our school database, I learn that she is cousins with another girl in the class, but the two never acknowledge each other during class, and I wouldn't have guessed that they were related.

I work hard to connect with her.

My school has a policy that teachers greet students at the door (which I would probably do anyway), and I say hello to her, by name, every day. I make a point of letting her know that I notice when she is absent. Recently, her desk has been close to where I stand when I present my mini-lessons, and I am forever putting things down on her desk. I joke with her about having to share her space. She smiles and says, "It's ok, Miss."

And yet she is so, so quiet.

Two weeks ago, on Valentine's Day, I brought note cards and asked my sixth graders to write a note of appreciation to someone that mattered to them. Kids wrote to teachers, to family members, and to friends. I was surprised when L wrote to me.

Dear Dr. Wilcox,
Thank you for all that you do for us. 
Thank you for the books that you recommend to me. 
They have become some of my favorites this year. 

I wrote her a note back the next day. She seemed surprised.

L has read a lot this year. She goes through about a book a week. Most recently, she's been on a historical fiction kick. She read STOLEN GIRL by Marcia Forchuk Skrypuch and then devoured A NIGHT DIVIDED in about three days. I watched her finish that book on Friday, sneaking the last few pages underneath her desk as I did my mini-lesson on writing a conclusion for literary analysis (we are three weeks from our state test).

After school, I catch her as we are walking out of our awards assembly. I acknowledge how quickly she finished A NIGHT DIVIDED and ask if she has something to read for the three-day weekend. She hesitates and says, "Yes," but then recants.

"I don't have anything," she says.

"We have to take care of that. Do you have five minutes?" She says that she does and we head for the library. I am thinking she might like THE WAR THAT CHANGED MY LIFE, but that one is not on the shelves right now. I pull COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles.

"Take a look at this one," I say. L thumbs through it and decides that she will try it.

"Will one be enough?"

She hesitates.

"You want two?" I say. "It's a three-day weekend. Take two, just to be sure you have enough."

We choose another and she heads out books in hand.

L is becoming a reader.

Opening up whole new worlds and possibilities for herself.

And yet there are 65 more of them.

And I wonder how many of them have become readers this year.


Leigh Anne Eck said...

I love this story because there are so many "L"s in the world. I love building relationships with students but building them around reading is simply the best. I love how each one of your opening lines builds her description. There was another post today about Countdown...I may have to get that one out of my TBR stack! Subliminal messages???

Diane Anderson said...

So glad you are there for the quiet one. It’s making a difference.

Tamara said...

That you chose to write about L touched my heart. In the midst of all that we have coming at us every day--I won't get into that, we all know--you wrote about L. These are the relationships that change lives. You see her.

Ramona said...

I love your comment about her having to share her space with you. This so, so quiet student knows she has a friend in you and you've watched her become a reader. It's why we do what we do!

Robin said...

I got goose bumps reading your story today. This is exactly why we do what we do. These are exactly the students who need us most. You have obviously made an impact on her. I'm sure the others are becoming readers too! But even if they aren't, you made a difference to this one and that is one more than before this year started. Worth it.

Marsha Skrypuch said...

Awesome to see an avid reader in the making!

Elisabeth Ellington said...

I got goose bumps too! I love seeing L blossom as a reader here and see your relationship with her grow through sharing books. This is how we do this work of growing readers--one child and one book at a time.

Tabatha said...

Love how you pick up on things that aren't said (like that she might need a second book).

Have you heard of "Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids" by Susan Cain?