Brotherly Motivation

Written by Mia Zade Alvarado, 2023-2024 English Literacy First Tutor 

This year I have been graced with the opportunity to work with 12 students so far. Each of my students has a journey that is uniquely their own. Many of my students draw from their families as inspiration for their success. Some want to be just like their parents or even their older siblings. This was the case for my two students who are brothers. While I speculated this at the beginning of the year based on their shared last name, I quickly confirmed it during our first sessions together. 
The older brother, Malik, is a second grader with a quick wit that reminds me of someone I know well—myself. He catches on quickly to the lesson, to the point that at the beginning of the year, we would race through lesson after lesson. I remember telling him that each lesson would get harder. I also vividly remember him not believing me. Needless to say, the lessons did in fact become more challenging. There came a point where he began to feel as if he was making no improvement. I showed Malik his growth and continued to do so daily to reinforce that progress. I watched him grow to more than double the words he could read per minute. I noticed him push harder to become not just a faster reader, but a more fluent reader. Malik is also very focused on his ability to grow. That focus led to one minor oversight; he had yet to recognize a familiar name on my schedule, his younger brother, Ali.  
Ali is a kindergarten student with the most kind and hilarious demeanor I’ve ever seen in a small child. Just like his brother, Ali is quick to pick up on lessons. Ali spotted his older brother’s name on my folders the first week we started working together. He would come into my classroom and ask what his brother was working on. Each time I would tell him that Malik was working on something more difficult due to his higher grade level and that he would soon be able to read just like him. While he often took this answer happily, there were some days when I noticed it inspired him to push just a little harder. 
Somewhere around mid-October, after several weeks of working together, Malik came in and asked me boldly, “Why does my brother say you also pick him up?” With a chuckle, I told him, “Because I do.” 

From that point on there was a consistent question each day, from both Malik and Ali, regarding the other student’s work. I’ve been told by both of them that they practice at home, sometimes even together. 
It has been a wonderful experience getting to see how much those two students motivate each other to be better readers. They are proud of not just themselves, but each other, and I of them. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us.