TAVARES MISSED MOST OF KINDERGARTEN, AND HE HASN’T GOTTEN MUCH HELP AT HOME
Ms. Kemp: Does anybody know what a sprout is? What do you think?
VANESSA KEMP RUNS WALTON’S READING PROGRAM. IT’S HER JOB TO OVERSEE THE TEACHERS AND TO MAKE SURE THAT CHILDREN LIKE TAVARES DON’T FALL BETWEEN THE CRACKS.
Ms. Kemp: There are so many people that think that it's impossible to get a child to read given the background… But through hard work, our children here at Walton will read.
TAVARES LIVES TEN MILES FROM THE HEART OF FORT WORTH, IN AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY CALLED STOP SIX.
Mr. Brasfield: We have doctors that live in this community, we have state representatives, judges … We have the very poor, also.
IN FACT, THREE QUARTERS OF THE CHILDREN HERE LIVE IN POVERTY, AND THEIR LIVES AT HOME ARE OFTEN UNSTABLE.
Mr. Brasfield: They’re in and out of apartments, so therefore they are in and out of the school.
PRINCIPAL LEONARD BRASFIELD HAS MADE WALTON A SAFE HAVEN FOR THESE KIDS. NOW HE EVEN HAS FOUR YEAR-OLDS SOUNDING OUT SIMPLE WORDS.
IT ALL BEGINS, SAYS MS. KEMP, WITH GIVING KIDS SOME STRUCTURE.
Ms. Kemp: When the children come in… they have to learn how to act in a classroom first, before we teach them to read.
Mr. Brasfield: If your teacher tells you to sit down once, you are supposed to sit down once. If she has to tell you again to sit down, she’s going to come and get me. And then I’m going to come and get you. Your teacher loves all of you, and we love all of you. But you are expected to follow the rules. If she tells you to sit down, you are going to do what?
Audience of children: Sit down!
Mr. Brasfield: And if you don’t, what’s going to happen?
Kids: Mr. Brasfield’s gonna come get you!
Mr. Brasfield: Thank you.
MS. KEMP AND HER TEAM MONITOR EVERY CHILD AT WALTON, ESPECIALLY THE KIDS WHO STRUGGLE. IT’S URGENT, SHE SAYS, TO INTERVENE QUICKLY, BEFORE A CHILD GETS DISCOURAGED AND GIVES UP.
TAVARES STARTS OUT IN THE LOWEST READING GROUP, BUT EVEN THERE HE CAN’T KEEP UP.
Ms. Morgan: Okay, what does fall begin with?
JUST AFTER LABOR DAY, THE SCHOOL DECIDES THAT TAVARES NEEDS EXTRA HELP.
Ms. Jackson: Okay, let’s go.
HE’LL SPEND AN HOUR EACH DAY WITH READING SPECIALIST RUBY JACKSON, ALONG WITH TWO OTHER STRUGGLING FIRST GRADERS AND A GROUP OF KINDERGARTNERS.
Ms. Jackson: hey're going at a slower pace, but they're going to the ability that they can do, and they feel good about themselves, so finally we can shine.
Ms. Jackson: Get ready.
Ms. Jackson: Yes. Rrrrr. Good job. Get ready.
Ms. Jackson: Yes, di.
Ms. Jackson: Get ready.
THE MATERIAL IS SO BASIC THAT EVEN BEGINNERS LIKE TAVARES CAN EXPERIENCE SUCCESS EVERY DAY.
Ms. Jackson: Give yourself a soft yes. Yes. Pat yourself on the back. Good job.
Ms. Kemp: Hi, Ms. Jackson.
Ms. Jackson: Hi, how you doing?