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Jottings contributor Norma Heyser shares thoughts on volunteering to help kindergarteners learn to read.

My introduction to 2020 kindergarten is a huge revelation. Most people from the last couple of generations, those whose vision of the future may be the most clouded, are not likely to see the inside of an elementary school. Hallway walls are full of project descriptions showing today's children learning way beyond my knowledge and wisdom.

My reason for volunteering at Montclair Elementary School is the "Read to Me" program and Mrs. Meyer's kindergarten class where the awesome artistry of reading begins. Each child brings unique character to choosing their morning reads, finding some books do not command attention and illustrations matter.

Some children prefer writing or drawing, so I ask them to draw some of the words in the book. Voila! They connect with the word and the book. As they write or draw we read it back as poetry.

The experience affirms my belief since early motherhood that children are born with natural creativity and curiosity. Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Meyers skillfully nurtures both, along with steady, watchful grounding in the children's growing awareness of their own need for self-discipline.

I listen and the children show me what's important to them, which often pales what is important to me.

A six-year-old boy said, "Sometimes I am aggressive." He watched for my reaction. I let him know that sometimes I am too, and I asked him when, why and how? It became a conversation that most adults avoid. Inevitably, we teach each other the realities of humanness.

We are all aggressive — when, how, why? Where does it come from? What does it mean?

Another six-year-old said, "I can see behind me." He also checks my response which inspires honest joy. "How wonderful!" I exclaim. He went on to explain "I don't know how I can do that." Turning his head slightly to both right and left — his eyes seeing behind himself.

I have shared this story with grownups who laugh it off. It is not a joke, it is a physiological gift to be nurtured.

Are there other people in the world fortunate enough to see behind themselves?

Observing a child learning to read and listening closely to their stories affirms my truth that we humans are continuously teaching each other regardless of age or stature.

The special gift for me is the opportunity to experience the feelings of a proudly engaged, great-grandmother thanking life for it every Friday morning at 10.

Norma Edythe Heyser is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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