Within the past month, all four of the 4th graders that I work with at Casa Hogar Douglas (Douglas Children’s Home) have finished the first chapter book of their entire lives. We’re so excited to promote literacy among the children we serve through tutoring and development of libraries on-site at the children’s homes. This is truly a key to them having the tools they need to break free from the cycle of poverty. My excitement I think pales in comparison to how much this feat is boosting these boys’ confidence in their own academic abilities. I don’t think they had any idea that they were capable of reading such long books.
Boy #1 just learned to read this past September. He hadn’t been enrolled in school for the past 2 years. Not only can he now read, he can read (really slowly, while skateboarding) chapter books on a 3rd and 4th grade reading level. He genuinely likes to read. What started with Dr. Seuss, has now progressed into chapter books about pirates in space.
Boy #2 now gets more excited when I bring news of new books arriving from the states for him to read than when I buy new movies. He’s the strongest reader out of the 4 boys in his grade that live in his dorm. He’s come a long way from where he was last year in reading.
Boy #3 can barely read. I mean, he can read but it’s painful at times how slow he reads. In 15 minutes, he might read 3 pages. He still tries to cheat his way out of reading for the allotted time by just counting out loud to try and trick me that he’s really reading. But he has now read two of the Stink books and is unbelievably proud of himself.
Fourth grader #4 is a special, special child. He has some rather intense behavioral outbursts at times. He doesn’t usually do well in school and he has severe speech problems. On the days that I’m responsible for him, I’m lucky if I can get him to do half of his homework without throwing a fit. He’s multiple years behind in school but this blessed country keeps passing him to the next grade. This pass month though, I believe I’ve witnessed a miracle. He loves to read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books! When his required 15 minutes of reading is up, he keeps reading. He laughs hysterically as he reads and then runs to read the same joke on the page to another kid. We had a party just this past week when he finished the first book in the series by watching the movie that’s been made after the book. He was so excited to watch the movie that he even invited his older brothers to watch with us. He is currently reading the 2nd book in the series and when he finishes, I’ve promised to buy the 2nd movie.
I’m so proud of them and so thrilled for their futures. For whatever reason, each one of the stories being written in history for these boys involves the part where they grew up in an orphanage. The statistics are not pretty for how the stories of people who got their start in an orphanage usually end. I usually find myself praying against what seems like ridiculous odds when I remember them individually in my prayers. But what I’m physically seeing right now is an obvious answer to my prayers from over a year ago.
-The cost of the 30 or so books it took to start the boys reading: around $200 usd
-Video games to motivate them: free because I took my little brother’s stuff
-Months of constantly throwing books at the boys: 14 months
-Self-confidence gained after finishing the first chapter book of your life: PRICELESS
Seeing and hearing them read and laugh and love what they are reading is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed but it doesn’t compare to seeing and hearing them worship with all they’ve got. They yell it out whether it’s to a CD, a worship DVD or at church. And they’ve got some awesome air guitar moves. Three years ago, I don’t think any of them knew a worship song. Better things are yet to come at Douglas my friends. Join me in praying that Angel, Guillermo, Cesareo and Gustavo grow up to be some mighty men one day.