Butts, Poop and Other Challenges for Mentors

For several years, I have been a volunteer reading mentor with A-OK Mentoring and Tutoring in Howard County, Maryland. Before that I worked with Partners in Reading in Harford County, and before that, and before that, etc. Let’s just say I have worked on reading skills with LOTS of kids besides my own.

Many of these kids, identified as “behind” (no pun intended) grade level in reading are also English language learners. Turns out there’s a relationship between the language spoken and read at home and a child’s ability to read, write, and comprehend English thrown their way at school. Who would have guessed?

From my observations of these kids, boys and girls of varying ages and cultures, kids think butts are funny. Kids think underwear is funny. Diapers? Toilets? Poop? Funny. Funny. Funny. Even when they can’t read the words or know the English words for said hilarity, it’s still funny. Which can be a challenge for mentors.

How do you explain “wedgie” or “urinal” if you don’t know which words of your explanation will be understood? I mean, you’re not going to demonstrate, right? And, my goodness, there are a zillion English words for poop – poo, doo, doo-doo, crap, guano, feces, etc. and I haven’t even touched diarrhea! (Ewww!)

These are real examples of words I have had to explain to kids. The moment when my carefully chosen words have bridged the gap of comprehension, when the meaning and context dawn on them and they realize I am explaining what I am explaining, might be more funny to me than butts are to them. And a good laugh between the two of us is one of the best parts of mentoring.

I humbly suggest, if you are in the business of reading to kids, you need to get real comfortable talking about body parts and body functions and, maybe, learn to laugh about it all. Like a kid.

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