How Reading Translates to Leading

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RV - Female Scholars

A few weeks ago the Reading Village Board spent an hour on a Skype call with some of our youth leaders. One of those teens was Alicia. When I first met Alicia three years ago I said to myself, “What a thoughtful, soft spoken girl.” On Tuesday I got to see who Alicia has become – an articulate, self-confident, formidable young woman.

How did this happen? It goes back to the very first workshop Alicia and other youth leaders attend each year. During this workshop they learn a seven-letter acronym – SIEMPRE!  Siempre is the Spanish word for always. Each word describes what the teens must always do when facilitating reading activities with children. Ask any of our teens what SIEMPRE stands for and they’ll tell you. It’s like “the seven commandments” for a reading promoter!

  • Sonreir — Smile!
  • Invitarles a participar — Invite participation
  • Elevar la voz — Project your voice
  • Mostrar las illustraciones — Show the pictures
  • Pronunicar cada palabra — Pronounce every word
  • Ritmo — Speak slowly
  • Expresar energia – Exude enthusiasm (through physical expression)

At face value, these guidelines seem quite technical and limited to the context of reading a story to children. But embedded in SIEMPRE are core leadership values and practices including putting others at ease, engaging everyone in the conversation, and using your voice and body language to communicate effectively.

Alicia and her peers will tell you that capturing the attention and imagination of a group of 3rd graders is one of the scariest and hardest things they’ve ever done. After leading more than 360 hours of literacy activities during their time with Reading Village, the SIEMPRE practices serve these young adults well beyond the reading circle. We watch our graduates apply these practices with parents, peers, and colleagues to influence and inspire change in their communities. It’s this capacity that will remain with each youth leader always — siempre.

By: Larry Dressler, Founding Board Member of Reading Village

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