Writing the Way at 826LA: Barnacle’s Bookworms “Team Wonder” duo Germany G., age 12, and Allie L.

826LA student Germany G., age 12, and Allie L. have been reading aloud together at 826LA’s Barnacle’s Bookworms for four years! Germany and Allie both started at Barnacle’s Bookworms in October 2013. Allie first became involved in 826LA through her work with the Lionsgate Lionshares program.

At first, Allie and Germany were reading partners who bonded over books and sports. Today, the duo are friends who wear equally cool kicks (Germany prefers Jordans), talk Germany’s future as an Olympic swimmer, and look forward to cracking open a book together on the weekends. You can catch Germany and Allie tackling “Hunger Games” at Barnacle’s Bookworms on Saturday mornings, reading aloud together line by line, one page of adventure at a time.

This is the start of a beautiful Barnacle’s Bookworms friendship…

Germany G.: I remember that I used to be really, really shy when I met Allie.  I wasn’t scared, I was just nervous. I’ve been with 826LA  for tutoring, summer camp, and a bunch of things. They’re fun. Then when my mom found out there was a reading program, I said “okay,” because I really wanted to get my grades up in reading.

Allie L.: I remember meeting Germany. Back then she was kind of shy, and you know, she wasn’t really that excited about reading. But we had a good time together. It was fun getting to know Germany, and we picked out some good books.

GG: We went out and picked a book the first day. I really didn’t know which to choose, because I really didn’t know my reading level. So usually I just chose easy books.

AL: I still remember some of the early books that we read.

GG: I remember only one: “Five Goofy Ghosts.”

“The first few weeks, Allie was like a complete stranger. But then the next thing you know, it’s like she’s a friend.”

AL: Yes! (laughs) We used to read this book together called “Five Goofy Ghosts.”

GG: Always near Halloween. When I finished reading it, I wanted to read it again!

GG: I started out being scared [when I first started Bookworms]. Then, when I got to know Allie more, I started talking more. I trusted her more. The first few weeks, Allie was like a complete stranger. But then the next thing you know, it’s like she’s a friend. She’s funny, she’s nice, she’s caring. And she’s really fun to talk to.

AL: Watching Germany’s reading level grow over the years has been so incredible. I met Germany when she was eight, and now she’s twelve. And watching her grow into a very thoughtful, caring, and intelligent young adult has been incredible.

Reading with Allie helped Germany become a better student and a more detailed writer

Germany: I was used to not getting good grades in English. But with Bookworms, right now I have a B+ in my English class. And all because of my fluent reading [my teacher] said. I remember how Allie helped me really improve my spelling and my vocabulary.

Because before, I didn’t know what “claustrophobic” was. Or like, “weeping” and “reaping.” I’d never heard them. I usually used “crying” and “picking.” I didn’t use those tough words, but now I do. And then some of my friends are like, “wait, what are you saying?”

It’s like if I’m writing a word from a book, sometimes I remember how it’s written in the book. Or when I’m describing a character, it helps me because I can look back in the book to see how he described himself. How I could change that and describe him in my own words.

Don’t judge a book by its cover: Choosing the right book to read aloud together

Germany: I hear about books first. My teacher read this book “Wonder.” She said it’s her favorite book. Allie also read it, and she told me something she remembered about it. So I said, “Okay, I’m gonna try it.”

It’s really sad because the kid August [in the story] has a bunch of surgeries. So when we were looking for a book, I was like, what book is interesting and sad? And then we were looking and looking until we found “Wonder.” I kept on reading it until I finished it. And my mom said we might watch the movie in November!

Growing into a reader at Barnacle’s Bookworms through “Wonder”

Germany: Well, reading…it wasn’t my favorite subject. It was the worst for me. Whenever I read a book, I was bored. I was like, okay, this is too hard, I don’t know this word. But now I feel like it’s fun and interesting, because I got used to reading.

Allie: I have to say one of the biggest breakthrough moments was actually with the book “Wonder.” We kind of got to a point where Germany was, you know, the easier chapter books were too easy and she was looking for a challenge, but some of the harder books…they have a lot of exposition in the beginning, and scene setting was kind of tough to get into. But with “Wonder,” the chapters are very short and they’re written almost like a journal from someone’s point of view. So it’s like right when you start reading you’re in the character’s head, you know what they’re thinking.

We started “Wonder” when Germany was in [the beginning of fifth grade]. And I remember [the main character] Auggie was in fifth grade. It was exciting because she could really relate to the characters. I would say that was probably the first book  that I saw Germany really enjoy and get into reading.

Also, the books we were reading before were kind of geared towards younger readers, and “Wonder” deals with some more complex issues. Watching Germany understand them and very thoughtfully think about them and intelligently break them down was really exciting. It was a really cool time in our reading history that I will always remember.

GG: I bought my own copy of the book! I really liked August because he seemed like a cool kid. He’s suffering all of these things, but he’s really strong. He handles it. In the book, on Halloween, other kids like Julian start making fun of August saying, “ah, he looks like E.T.” But then [Julian and August realize] they liked the same things, like Star Wars. They just looked different. So they didn’t really care how they looked anymore. It makes me feel like, this is how the world could change if you actually got to know kids.

“I was used to not getting good grades in English. But with Bookworms, right now I have a B+ in my English class. And all because of my fluent reading…”

In fifth grade, some kids might feel the same way, they might have the same problems, and if you find somebody that way, you know how to treat them nicely because you don’t know the problems they’re going through.

AL: She’s wiser than me when I was her age! And because she loved the book so much, Germany really started picking up skills and everything that really helped her graduate to reading “Hunger Games.”

A big thank you from one “Team Wonder” Bookworm buddy to another:

From Allie to Germany: I just want to say that one of the things that I love so much about you is that you are so thoughtful, and you’re such a strong young woman. I never want you to lose that. You always have such a spark, and you are always just so happy and passionate about what you are doing.

And you love school so much. I just want to say, always love school, always enjoy learning. Because your whole life you’re going to be learning things. And always be passionate about what you love. I love how passionate you are about swimming. I love how passionate you are about math. I love how passionate you’ve become about reading. Never lose those passions.

From Germany to Allie: I want to say thank you, because you’ve always helped me a lot. Always be happy, because you’re always happy!

AL: You make me happy!

“I just want to say that one of the things that I love so much about you is that you are so thoughtful, and you’re such a strong young woman. I never want you to lose that.”

Advice to future Barnacle’s Bookworm readers:

Germany: Try it out. And if you don’t like it, well…I don’t know. You usually like it. It’s always fun, and there’s nice people here that really care about kids’ reading.

So, what’s the best part about coming to Barnacle’s Bookworms every week?

Germany: Seeing Allie!

Allie: Seeing Germany, of course!

Barnacle’s Bookworms is a reading-focused workshop where students  receive one-on-one reading support. Adult reading buddies help them build their literacy skills and their love of reading.

To volunteer to read one-on-one with a student with 826LA’s Barnacle’s Bookworms on Saturday mornings, please sign up on the 826LA projects calendar.

Read more pieces from our Writing the Way at 826LA blog series here

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