A Smile Did It

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Really? She let you read to her? HAH..!
The guy in charge of the Read-To-Me Program scandalously retorted after I told him how exciting it had been reading to Shontelle. ”She’s a tough one”, he said, “I can’t believe she let you read to her.”
Later I understood what he meant.
Arriving at the Read-To-Me center in Phoenix, with my school’s volunteering club, Interact, I had no clue of what I was doing other than the fact that I would be volunteering. This would be my first time ever at the center, and I cannot lie, the hot August day mixed with my anxiety making my hands shake like maracas producing noises with my bracelets. I mean, I have a six-year old brother, and have never, in my spare time, volunteered to read to him, so thinking about going to read to other kids made me feel somewhat guilty, but it would be nice to give it a try. So I signed up to go, however, I never stopped to think who the kids I was going to read to were going to be.
After putting away the sliding doors that separated two rooms, and saw there was plenty of space for us and the kids to be comfortable reading, they all marched in. Smiling, pushing, rushing, they all entered the big room.
My friends Nancy and Rosario had already been there, so they looked for the kids they had read to before and went with them. Me, on the other hand, I did not know what to do. All the kids seemed to have a volunteer reading to them, and I was the one without a child to read to. I felt the awkwardness through my body , and putting my hands behind my back, I backed away from the door. There was no point of standing by the door when all the children had already went in. And as I was walking away, I spotted a Halloween.ish bow bobbing up and down on some puffy hair. I shook my hands to remove the tenseness and approached the girl. Fearing that she would refuse to be read to, I made my way to her in a cautious manner.
I finally reached her and asked her name. She told me she was Shontelle, and I told her I was Annel. She smiled. It reminded me of those smiles that my little brother gives me when he is about to run before I find out he did something he was not supposed to. Not paying much attention to my thoughts, I told her I would read to her, and she continued walking to a table. We went over many books, and it was like if I were reading to myself. No talking dinosaur could attract her attention, nor a singing cat. But later, we got to a book that involved a dog. I noticed the spark on her eyes and the grin that was about to brighten the room when she saw the dog, so I asked her if she had a dog. Still noticing her face expressions, she told me she did. She told me the color and everything. Then a large family was shown in one of the illustrated pages of the book. I asked her about her family, and she told me her family was “big”, but she had not seen them in a while. She said her mom had her baby brother with her, but she missed them. She had eight siblings, but she rarely saw them. Then she talked about her dog and how she had not seen him in a “long time”.
I asked if she liked Halloween. She told me that she had spent last year’s Halloween there and then changed the subject. Right when she changed the subject, it felt like a bucket of cold water had been dropped on me so I could open my eyes and realize what was going on.
Then, I understood what the guy meant. The girl held some sort of animosity towards life. Yeah she was young to understand, but maybe the grownups are the ones that do not understand her. Sometimes kids act in a way that is not pleasing, yet it might be the only way they could get the attention they want and need. Instead of just categorizing and judging people by how they act, they should take the time to figure out why they act the way they do. Kids need attention to be able to be understood.
Shontelle reminded me of my little brother. He loves to attract attention in an annoying way. Sometimes he acts up and tries to yell, but he is all figured out. My family knows how to treat him and know why he acts the way he does. All kids want attention. And it is sure that children at a shelter may not be able to receive enough attention like they would if they were at home, but that does not justify the way they are treated. Shontelle wanted attention, it was like if she were yelling for it with the top of her lungs but not saying a word at all, and I am glad I could, at least for two hours, give her the attention she had been waiting for.





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