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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

These words from Dr Seuss were read by a fifth grader named David (not his real name) during an event I recently attended to celebrate the reading program he and other students from his school participated in this past year. I was a volunteer tutor in the program and got to spend time with David every Tuesday morning, often walking into the school while the morning announcements were being broadcast on the school-wide PA system…that last part may not seem worth mentioning, but keep reading and you’ll learn what makes the announcements at this school special.

The elementary school is only a mile from my home, but whereas most of my neighbors are white, a majority of the students at the school are African-American or immigrants. David began attending the school in the fall after he and his family left their home country for reasons he didn’t talk about besides saying he likes it better here because “there is peace.”

David is a smart young man who probably didn’t need the reading help, but with English being his second language and being new to America, it didn’t hurt him to get the extra practice and support. There’s a lot more I could share about what makes him a special kid, but you’re still wondering what makes the announcements at his school so special…

You see, after all the boring announcements for the day are shared, the vice principal leads the students in a ritual that takes the form of a call-and-repeat chant. It’s called “I AM Somebody” and the words are below, but to get a sense for what it’s really like, imagine you are walking down the hallway of an elementary school in the morning while hearing an adult proclaim each line, followed by the students in each classroom energetically repeating them as if they believe what they are saying!

I am somebody.
I am capable and lovable.
I am teachable.
Therefore I can learn.

I can be anything if I try.
I’ll be the best that I can be.
Each day.
Each day.
Each day.

I will not waste time
because it is too valuable.
And I am too precious and bright.

I am somebody.
I am somebody.
I AM somebody.
I am somebody.

+ Thank you to the teachers and administrators at Maxfield Elementary; it was a joy to witness caring adults helping young people believe in themselves.
+ If you’d like to learn more about becoming a reading tutor in a school near you, visit readingpartners.org.

 

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