Although The Literacy Project as I understood it was designed to be a program in which mentors would work with teens to help improve their reading skills, I found out early on that with my student whom we will name G. (15) it was going to be different. I discovered that G.'s reading and writing skills in English AND Spanish were more than competent. The first couple times we met we talked candidly about her interests and heavy school and extracurricular activities. Knowing that she was an advocate of chicano rights and hearing about the organization she founded at her school, I decided to introduce her to the book, Revolt of the Cockroach People by Oscar Zeta Acosta. Although G. knew much about current LA based organization groups she had not heard of the chicano rights lawyer. I re-read the book along with her and received more context than before as G. would recognize certain landmark historical events and surnames she had heard about but not really been able to find in literature. The breezy stream of consciousness style of Zeta's book makes it seem like you are there alongside him marching and protesting and riding in East LA. To read this just as G. was mobilizing her school group for May Day, provided such a deep profundity in looking at this specific history. I asked her to write down what she saw that day just as Zeta had in 68 and it proved a great exercise. After finishing the book we took some time to figure out what would make the most sense for the next cycle of the Project. Sometimes our hour a week would be casually talking about our personal lives but nearly always the subject would be about the role of social activism and the importance of educating young people at a very early age. I let her borrow a number of documentaries about politics, civil rights and ecology. She would watch them at home with her mom and sister and we would talk about their reactions at our next visit. Once G. started to study for her SAT's we did go back to the reading comprehension text to find tips and strategies that would help her with the standardized test. But overall, our meetings became more about sharing ideas we would both read in literature, journalism and film.
To conclude, the opportunity of taking part in the Literacy Project yielded many strong positives, the most relevant being that reading skills is a life long process and one in which academically driven students need to nurture continuously by digging deep into the lesser known archives to find out about under-represented historical figures, and for as long as standardized testing continues to be the main marker of passing students through highschool, college and beyond, reading comprehension skills and strategies need to be covered as early as possible.
I believe the Literacy Project as we tailored it kept the basic concept of dedicating one hour to one student which enabled a foundation for a unique trust and friendship to build. I was neither her teacher nor her counselor but a friend and that peer relationship developed into the supportive friendship we have today.