The Power of Story Time

by Emily Ricci

Emily Ricci is an AmeriCorps Site Coordinator for Reading Partners, a national literacy non-profit, in Washington, DC.

When I was four years old, I was lucky enough to have a father that took me to pajama story time at the library every Thursday night. I enjoyed every minute of it – wearing my fleece pajamas in public, searching for Curious George with the yellow binding, and taking home piles of books in my plastic library bag. When I was four years old I learned to love reading, but it wasn’t until I was a senior in college, volunteering with Jumpstart, that I realized that not every child has a pajama story time in their past.

During my time with Jumpstart, I was enthralled by conversations with students using words like “squeezing” and “squirting,” while leaning over a cup of water with a handful of food dye. I enjoyed the gluttony of ordering a pizza in the Dramatic Play “kitchen” with endless toppings. I loved reading The Lion and the Little Red Bird, especially at the end when the lion reveals his colorful mural. With each activity I was inspired by the interest and excitement my students were exhibiting, yet I was also reminded that while not every student had a pajama story time like I did, they also might not have had Jumpstart.

As my year with Jumpstart progressed, I was in awe at how much I learned from my students and the teachers about the community I lived in as well as the education crisis. For years I had been a member of this community, yet had remained blissfully ignorant to the inequality looming over the heads of these young learners.

I discovered a passion for literacy instruction on an individualized level while serving as a Corps member, which drew me to Reading Partners. As a Site Coordinator with Reading Partners, I manage 61 students and more than 75 volunteer tutors on a weekly basis. I observe the impact of our program on a broad scale – at midyear, 77 percent of students enrolled in Reading Partners at my site accelerated their rate of learning – and on an individual scale – I saw one student smile for the first time this past March. It’s moments like watching a shy six-year-old stand up in front of a crowd and read the poem “Cats” that I’ll never forget.

I have been lucky in my position to observe amazing progress in less than one year. A partnership between a tutor and a young student affects the student, the tutor, and the school community. I strongly believe that Reading Partners has an inspiring model for any individual passionate about education reform, especially at the elementary school level. I encourage all Jumpstart Alums who are passionate about pursuing a career in education reform to learn more about how Reading Partners can impact the lives of young students. It just might be that next journey in your life you were looking for!

To learn more about applying for an AmeriCorps position at Reading Partners, join Emily, and other Jumpstart Alums, for a webinar on 4.23.

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