05 January 2007

Power Lunch

This past week, after the winter break, I resumed my volunteer reading program with Everybody Wins' Power Lunch. Through the Power Lunch program, office workers are paired up with reading partners at a nearby school. I had the same girl, "Myra", as a reading partner. We read a book from the Junie B., First Grader series, by Barbara Park. It's a new series for me, as before it was called Junie B. Jones, and the character Junie had a woman for a home room teacher, whereas now she has Mr. Scary.

Besides feeling good for doing a good deed, volunteering for Power Lunch gives me a chance to interact with kids outside of my family and relatives. I came to the U.S. when I was in my early teen and didn't speak much English to start with, so up to recently I didn't know what kids in elementary school read. I have a niece on the wife's side, but she is too Chinese and has troubles with English so she doesn't read English books outside of school assignments. With "Myra" and her friends, we read many Junie B. Jones books, sometimes Goosebumps (R. L. Stine), and occasionally Amelia Bedelia. Junie B. is a kindergarten girl who usually gets into minor infractions with the school principal. She does use lots of incorrect English - after all, she's only a kindergarten kid - but I always make sure my reading partners know about the bad English. Goosebumps books belong to a very special category. Instead of the usual linear storyline, a Goosebumps story can take on many twists and turns depending on how the reader responds to the options presented at key pages. For instance, if the main character is hiding but is about to be discovered, the options would be whether to jump out of hiding and make a run for it, or wait to be discovered. For each answer, the reader would go a certain page in the book to continue reading. It's mind-boggling how Goosebumps books are written. Amelia Bedelia books are about the girl Amelia frequently misunderstanding instructions. Some days when "Myra" feels lazy about reading, we would read Dr. Seuss and such.

From the Power Lunch orientation meeting, there are two things I find hard to forget. One was that whenever one adult reader finds himself/herself alone in the room with a child, he/she is supposed to step out of the room. Sad, but a necessary precaution, in these days of child molesters everywhere we look, whether as celebrities or figures of authority. The other, more pleasant memory of the orientation was that we adult readers should be selective of what we bring with as lunch. If we were to bring McDonald's french fries, we may find that it would be difficult for the child to concentrate. Maybe it was a joke, but it made me think of McDonald's whenever I go to Power Lunch. Every time I finish my volunteer session with Power Lunch, I would swing by the McDonald's in the mall to get myself a value meal. To me, Power Lunch has become synonymous with McDonald's.

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