One afternoon, our student Maria, was having a particularly hard day. She wasn't interested in attending The Reading Club and was sitting off to the side by herself on the playground. She walked into our program late and sat at the back of the library waiting out the first of three rounds of stations. During the second round of stations, I went over to talk with her. She initially didn't want to talk, but slowly opened up about how she is always caught doing something wrong or picking on other people, but how no one else seems to get caught when they do the same thing. "It's so unfair," she said.
Unfair is a word I hear often from Maria. She's lived a hard life and carries a great deal of hurt in her fourth grade heart. We hear from her teachers and other staff about the many poor decisions she makes on a weekly basis. She's considered a trouble maker, and while we see similar behavior at times at The Reading Club, we know a different side of Maria.
Maria went on to tell me about a difficult situation that had happened to her that morning at home. Once again she said "It's so unfair." I agreed. I asked Maria if we could read Psalm 139 together. I wanted to show her some verses I go to when I feel like no one cares for me or sees me. We spent the next ten minutes going verse by verse through the psalm talking about how much God loves us, knows us and cares for us particularly when things around us seem dark or difficult.
When the timer went off signaling it was time for the last round of stations, she looked at me and said "Thank you for making me feel better." She asked if she could take the Bible home with her, so I put a bookmark in between the pages of Psalm 139 and handed it to her. She hopped up and bounced over to her last station of the day with a smile on her face.
While we focus on strengthening our students' ability to read each week, the time I spent with Maria that day meant more to me than any book she'd ever read in our program. She learned that she is loved and valued by the creator of the world who sees her and knows her even when those around her make her feel otherwise.