Reader Spotlight: Everybody Wins! at Walker-Jones Elementary School, D.C.

Since 1991, Everybody Wins! has grown from five volunteers in Manhattan reading to elementary school students during lunch into a national nonprofit literacy mentor program partnering adult volunteers with elementary school students for weekly one-on-one reading sessions called "power lunches" in 9,200 public schools.

At the end of May, Book World visited Walker-Jones/R.H. Terrell Elementary School in Northwest D.C. to speak with two students and their Everybody Wins! reading partners as they wrapped up the 2008-2009 school year.

Luisa Paningbatan and Elron Russell (Photos by Mary Morris)

Gabrielle Roberts and Elron Russell are two of the 123 Walker-Jones students who read with partners this past school year under the enthusiastic direction of Patrice Barber, Everybody Wins! school coordinator.

Gabrielle Roberts, 4th grade
Poised and articulate, 9-year old Gabrielle Roberts has been reading with Everybody Wins! since last September. Two earlier reading partners had to leave, she explains, and she has been reading with Chaleta Moore for a month. Moore, who works for the U.S. Department of Education, says that after receiving an e-mail call for mentors, "I decided to step up because I love reading and I love kids, so it was the perfect combination for me. Children are a joy."

Says Gabrielle, "The first time I met her I thought, wow, this will not be hard because she was very calm. She wasn't up looking around like, where's my student? Where's my student? She was sitting down, waiting for me to come." They hope to continue reading together in the fall.

Chaleta Moore and Gabrielle Roberts

What do you think about Everybody Wins!?
Gabrielle: When I decided to do it I said that I think it would be nice for me to have someone to read to. I try reading to people at home but they're busy all the time, so I like reading to a person who will actually sit down and listen to me read until our time is up. I like that I was able to become part of this system for children to read to adults.

It doesn't bother you to give up recess?
Gabrielle: I'm used to giving up my recess. Sometimes I want a break from recess anyway.

What kind of books do you like to read?
Gabrielle: Fiction and nonfiction. Drama and mysteries.

What was the first book you read here?
Gabrielle: Super Emma (by Sally Warner and Jamie Harper). I liked it because I think Emma, the little girl, is like me. If I were her, I would have broken up the fight in the school cafeteria, too, especially if one of the persons was my friend. They were fighting over a toy. Because a bully took her friend's toy, Emma snatched the toy out of the bully's hand and gave it to her friend. But her friend was mad at her because she made him embarrassed because he couldn't break up the fight for himself. That's as far as we got.

Why did you pick this book, I, Amber Brown, to read?
Gabrielle: I heard about different Amber Brown books so when I saw it, I thought I should try it because she's funny. Her mom and her dad have separated. Her mom has a fiancé who takes her shopping for Christmas presents for his son and other people.

What books have you received from Everybody Wins!?
Gabrielle: The Be Healthy! It's a Girl Thing Book for Girls (by Mavis Jukes, Lilian Wai-Yin Cheung, and Debra Ziss), and Crushes, Flirts, And Friends: A Real Girl's Guide to Boy Smarts (by Erika V. Shearin Karres). At our pizza party I got a 2009 Summer Journal to write everything I do during the summer in.

Elron Russell, 6th grade
A bright and centered presence, 11-year old Elron Russell--who wanted to be in Everybody Wins! since kindergarten--is also in his first year. "There was a waiting list," explains his partner, Luisa Paningbatan, who works in the Chancellor's Office at DC Public Schools, "and this year he got in." "Other kids said it was fun," says Elron. "I thought she was going to be a quiet person," Elron says of his reading partner, "but everything started changing when we met every week and started getting down to the books."

Says Paningbatan, "I used to be a teacher in New York City and I was really missing being in a classroom, so when I heard about this program I was very excited. Elron asks good questions. He's very intuitive. Every time I ask him something about the book, he knows."

What do you like best about Everybody Wins!?
Elron: At first I thought it was going to be a little boring because it looked so quiet, but it's better since I get to be in it. I like reading different kinds of books, like cartoon books, fiction, tall tales, sometimes drama and poetry. And sometimes we do other activities.

How do you feel about missing recess?
Elron: I don't care. I don't really have anything to do.

What books have you read this year?
Elron: Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire. The Twelve Days of Christmas. How Santa Got His Job by Steven Krensky. That was a fun one. Santa tried to be a fire fighter and a policeman and a chimney sweeper. He said it's too hard to do all of these regular jobs and he decides to keep the one he's already got since he already knows how to do it. I liked the funny parts, like when he said, I'm going to end up rolling down the roof because I'm so fat and chubby!

Why did you pick the book you're reading now?
Elron: Because my librarian said it's good and the first chapter was good, too. It's called The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis. Off the top of my head, Byron's the bad one, Kenny's the good one, and Joey is not a boy, she's a girl. They call her Joey but her real name's Joetta. The Watsons are a family that lives in Flint (Michigan) where it's really cold. Their mom is from Birmingham, Alabama. They're going there to drop Byron off for three weeks because he's been so bad. He straightens his hair into a "conk." He fights in school. He's a bully. He's many bad things, like a big pot of evil. We got up to the 14th chapter.

What's the best thing you've gotten out of being in Everybody Wins!?
Elron: My grades are getting better. At first I got an F in language arts and reading. It got better since she gave me some advice that instead of keeping my work at my desk, to hand it to the teacher, and that works. And to be nice and quiet and listen to everything the teacher has to say. Also, at first I thought that reading slow is bad, but I figured out it's not bad because you always want to take the time to understand what you're reading.

Any plans to read over the summer?
Elron: I want to read Harry Potter because there's going to be another movie, and next might be World War II Color Manga (by Ted Nomura and Ben Dunn).

"I'm moving to New York City so I won't be your mentor next year," says Paningbatan. "Aww," says Elron, disappointed. "So I want to give you a gift," she says, handing him a present. Opening it, Elron's eyes light up. "When Chocolate Milk Moved In," he reads. "Because you like football," smiles Paningbatan. "It's signed by the author, Ken Harvey, a Washington Redskin." "Do I get to keep it, for home?" asks Elron, and he grins when Paningbatan says it's for him to take home. Wondering if he can borrow The Watsons Go to Birmingham to finish over the summer, he leaves to ask Ms. Patrice. Ms. Patrice comes back with Elron who's holding an extra copy of the book. Ms. Patrice beams, "That's yours to have. Please read it." Elron nods happily. As the last power lunch of the school year ends, Elron and Ms. Luisa hug good-bye. "I'm going to miss him," Paningbatan says.

By Mary Ishimoto Morris |  June 19, 2009; 4:04 PM ET Children/YA , Mary Morris
Previous: School's Out! Summer Reading begins. | Next: Reader Spotlight: David Trent of Laurel, MD


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Everybody Wins is a wonderful program- thank you for giving it some attention!

Posted by: aesully | June 24, 2009 3:22 PM

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