The Greatest Gift of All: Teaching to Read
New in Town
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
I am an immigrant. I am an American. The first half of my life is colored with memories and experiences of living in a developing nation, under an oppressive government. When I was 12, my family moved to America where I was able to go to a good high school in New York City and then attend Georgetown. As a result of the age at which I immigrated to America, I am part of the relatively new classification known as the “1.5 generation.” At that age, I was old enough to remember what my life was like in Myanmar and carry those experiences with me but still young enough that I was easily wonderstruck at the peculiarities of America. As I grew up in this new country, my life was a mixture of these two worlds and these often-conflicting identities. In fact, my journey was what got me interested in international relations and what prompted me to apply to the School of Foreign Service.
Many of us chose to come to Georgetown for its unparalleled education. In fact, my parents’ main motivation for moving to America was because they believed that I would have a better education, which in turn would lead to a stable career. Throughout high school and even today, my parents constantly remind me that I am extremely lucky to have been part of America’s public education system and enrolled at Georgetown. They taught me to recognize the privilege I have just by the virtue of attending a top-tier school like Georgetown. Their emphasis on education led me to understand the massive importance of education and its implications for those who have access to it and those who do not. In fact, they inspired me to join D.C. Reads my first semester of freshman year and to help others.
D.C. Reads is a local response to the America Reads Challenge, a national initiative started under President Clinton that aims to promote literacy. Georgetown’s program is run by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and concentrates on pairing Georgetown students with elementary students in the first through third grade who are not reading at their respective grade levels. These children, often coming from low-income backgrounds, attend schools in Ward 7 and 8. Multiple times a week, over 250 Georgetown students provide needed, personalized and individualized attention to over 450 students in nine different locations.
D.C. Reads was probably one of the hardest yet most fulfilling activities I have ever done at Georgetown. I became personally invested in my kids and all I wanted was to see them succeed. Although I usually had trouble waking up at 9 a.m. every Saturday, I was always excited to promote my love for reading with the children that came to the community library. Throughout the program, I was able to work with the same kids each week, and it was rewarding seeing their reading level actually improve.
Overall, it was a very humbling experience doing a service like D.C. Reads. Before doing the program, I had taken my education for granted to a certain extent. My parents and teachers had always been willing to put in extra hours to try and help me understand a particularly difficult concept until I had completely mastered it. However, the schools D.C. Reads visits each week lack the resources and finances to ensure that each and every one of their students is able to understand everything fully. In this way, it is easy for students to fall behind, and once disadvantaged, it can be a great struggle to catch up, let alone move ahead. D.C. Reads does a great job of trying to bridge that gap and teaches many Georgetown students that education is something that should never be taken for granted.
Eng Gin Moe is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. NEW IN TOWN appears every other Friday in the guide.