Summer 2010

Almost a year ago, J'apprends avec mon enfant enabled me to meet little Gina, aged seven, with whom I have since been working as a volunteer reader. It is to tell the story of the spread of this little butterfly's wings, as well as to underline the importance of the work of J'apprends avec mon enfant in this development, that I am writing this short testimony.
In the second year of primary school at the time of our twinning, Gina, who had already gone through dramatic family difficulties, was significantly behind in school, particularly in French. An intelligent, charming girl who was already taking on great responsibilities, she nevertheless judged her reading and writing difficulties severely and denigrated herself by comparing herself to her classmates. Over the course of a year, as we met, I witnessed not only a supersonic improvement in her reading, concentration and comprehension skills, but above all, I witnessed Gina's growing self-confidence. Today, Gina is more and more independent in her learning, she seems more confident and definitely enjoys school... and what can I say about the pleasure we take in reading and writing together every week!
I think that the intervention formula supported by J'apprends avec mon enfant has made this growth possible for little Gina. As a former volunteer with a mentoring (Big Brother) organization, I know that a child's perseverance and success in school cannot be separated from meaningful, stable and personal relationships with adults. The opportunity that JAME gives its volunteers to share a little of the child's daily life in his or her home on a weekly basis, and to be in close contact with his or her family and community, leads to a holistic view of the child. The beautiful books we bring each week are a magic key in the child's life, which opens the possibility to pay individual attention to both his educational needs and the difficulties he might encounter in his school, but also in his social and family life.
Every week, Gina and I spend one to two hours together at her home, in the familiar and safe atmosphere of her house. In addition to confidences and small "chats", our main activities are simultaneously oriented towards the pleasure of reading and the reinforcement of Gina's reading and reading comprehension skills. Also, through educational games, writing book summaries, as well as through a postcard correspondence that we keep, Gina works on her writing and written production. We also take a moment together at each session to review the week's school events and for me to accompany Gina in the revision of her French learning... The "dictation commando", which Gina's mother and I lead together, knows nothing about her test!

Most of the time, Gina's mother participates in our meetings. Along with the other family members, she is a great source of encouragement and support for Gina. Gina's family highly values learning and closely follows her academic progress, despite the double limitations imposed by the language barrier (Malayalam and English are spoken at home) and by the fact that both of Gina's parents have very difficult health situations that force the family into a certain isolation. I think that my weekly visits to their home provide an additional bridge of integration; for example, I sometimes clarify certain school procedures or teacher's notes, and my conversations with the parents are increasingly conducted in French.
I have also met Gina's teacher, who has followed her through her first two years at school. She confirmed that Gina had made progress and that she was developing the motivation and self-confidence that she brings to school. This year, Gina received a perseverance award from the school board and the St-Vincent de Paul Society in recognition of her efforts, determination and success! The teacher also informed me of the "general knowledge" Gina acquired during our reading sessions: she now often identifies in class a character, a country or a historical fact about which we read together... what a great boost to her self-esteem! Gina's teacher also refers other students in her class to the I'm learning with my child programme and, each time, she tells me, she notices significant progress in school as well as a general blossoming in the participating children. This term I will be meeting with some of the school's groups as part of a volunteer activity to promote reading supported by JAME.
This year I will again have the great pleasure of accompanying Gina in the development of her love of reading and learning, and the immense pleasure of seeing her eyes sparkle with pride as she achieves each of her goals. I am grateful for the support, the listening and the good advice offered to me at J'apprends avec mon enfant. I also appreciate the care the organization takes in training us volunteers and putting us in touch with each other... and what can I say about the quality of the books on offer, which delight me as much as Gina!
By promoting reading and the love of books, as well as the academic and general support I am able to offer to Gina and her family, I know that I am making my small contribution to the great puzzle of the fight against illiteracy and dropping out. But above all, I feel that by sharing the literary, academic, family and emotional life of a child, I am adding my participation to a great project of social equality. Thank you for allowing me to live such a commitment.

Kim Turcot