Mentoring - Expectations and Rewards

For Our Mentors

Readers Are Leaders promotes education, leadership, sportsmanship, and citizenship for all of our student-athletes. We encourage all mentors to maintain a high standard of academic achievement throughout the school year. By becoming a mentor, our young men and women assume the responsibility of a big brother or sister who is tasked with helping a young buddy become a better reader. As mentors, they are making a commitment to a relationship with a young reading partner – a commitment that carries the expectation that they will act with integrity, responsibility, perseverance, and compassion. They will be working with their coach and elementary school educators to develop the character and capabilities of their partners, while leading by example.

Often our student-athletes grow and are rewarded in ways that they don’t expect. Initially, they may view their efforts as mentors as complying with their coach’s expectations—a community contribution that also helps to fund such things as equipment or expenses to play in a tournament. However, they are often surprised at the bond that develops with the kids they mentor. They often don’t anticipate that they will end up valuing the sense of service and commitment that has taken root by helping someone in need, and they don’t anticipate that by helping others to enjoy reading and working toward academic success, they will strengthen their own commitment to academics and to their community.

As their partner becomes more confident and more capable and has a more positive sense of what he or she can achieve, our mentors know that they have made a difference – an experience that can be very rewarding and can also help them realize their power to be a positive force in shaping their world.

For Our Elementary Students

Although the primary focus of our program is to boost reading skills, there are often other significant benefits that arise from the mentoring relationship. Many of our at-risk readers not only struggle with the process of reading but also suffer from a negative attitude toward reading. Sometimes the negative attitude is caused by weak skills and the struggle to read; sometimes reading is simply seen as uninteresting, unimportant, or un-cool. If this attitude persists, academic success often becomes unimportant, and kids will become bored, fall behind, and won't commit the effort to develop their talents. Our mentors are often able to break through this resistance and spark an interest and an effort. We also make it a priority to find books that stimulate the interest and match the reading level of our young readers.

Often our kids also struggle to fit in or to find attention, self-confidence, and direction. However, many times our young students develop a different perspective because a high school athlete thinks this “reading stuff” is important and cares enough about them to show up week after week to help them improve. It can be surprising to see how enthusiastically the young readers respond to working with our student-athletes. Such willingness often helps our mentors become surrogate older brothers or sisters, who support and encourage, gradually changing young students’ attitudes, helping them to become more confident and guiding them onto a more rewarding path.

Our mentoring is not a one-shot effort. It occurs throughout the athlete’s participation on the team and allows relationships to develop and expectations to take root. Our kids know that their mentors are going to be back to check up on them and support them. The expectations, enthusiasm, and support of the mentors provide clear incentives that make a difference. And as reading skills grow and as the kids find books that engage them, an ownership and interest will often develop, providing a momentum of its own. As the mentoring experience ends, our young students often demonstrate not only more interest in reading but also a positive attitude and more confidence in themselves and their future.

A positive attitude is an extraordinary asset in taking on challenges and creating the mindset and habits to grow and succeed.

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