Benicio’s Words


Benicio, a 10-year old, loves to read but gets frustrated easily. Volunteer Joanne Levine works with him on word recognition – flipping through index cards and checking off the words Benicio can read. When he gets four check marks, Benicio “owns” the word and he gets to keep the index card.

For struggling readers like Benicio, it may take weeks to own a word. That’s why they are particularly proud of “ridiculous” – a word that took months for Benicio to learn. “RIDICULOUS,” Benicio shouts when the card comes around in his pile. The whole room swells with laughter and Benicio smiles proudly.

Benicio is working with Joanne through FLY (Foundations of Literacy for Youth), a volunteer-run program that has been at CV for seven years. The team of FLY volunteers, Nicole Clark, Carol Intner, and Nancy Kliot, provide one-on-one literacy tutoring during the school day.

“The key motivating force that keeps children reading is comprehension,” Joanne says. Children won’t connect with a book or with the joy of reading until they can follow the story.

“Can you name a book that you like?” the volunteers ask their new students. Most of the time, this question is met with blank stares. IMG_4224

As Joanne works with Sean, a 9-year old boy, it’s easy to see why FLY is so popular. Each tutor is enthusiastic, supportive, charismatic, and engaging.

Joanne subtly records Sean’s progress, scribbling notes like “stamina” on his record without taking her eyes off Sean and his book.

Sean sighs. He tires quickly, but he clearly doesn’t want to let Joanne down, so he scoots to the edge of his chair and continues reading. With a lot of encouragement, he finally finishes the book and eagerly selects another, leaving with a book hugged to his chest for weekend reading.


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