Paying It Forward — Jack’s Story

我的姓名是Jack Khuu, 我是中國移民第一代在美出生的孩子


Reading Coach Bio: Jack Khuu

Years in Team Read: 7 (2 years in elementary, 5 years as a reading coach)

Promoted: Jack was promoted to Site Assistant after 3 years of being a reading coach (he started in 8th grade)

Tutoring Tip: Make it fun for your students—tell jokes!

Future plans: attend College to study technical engineering


2My name is Jack Khuu and I’m a first-generation Chinese American.

I was in Team Read in second grade, at an important time in my life. At home, my parents and grandparents spoke Cantonese. None of our books were in English and the TV was always on a Chinese-language channel.

When I tried to read in school, English looked weird and the alphabet made no sense. I never knew which sound to make when I read.

I was jealous when I saw the books that other students were reading, like Harry Potter and the Magic Tree House.

In Team Read, my tutor was a guy from Franklin High School who liked to tell jokes like: “Why did the chicken cross the road? And how many cats does it take to screw in a light bulb?” I never really understood. American jokes were confusing, but my tutor kept trying to entertain me. He didn’t treat me like a student; he treated me like a little brother.

He asked me what I wanted to read most. “Magic Tree House!” I told him. “But it’s way too hard.”

“Let’s do this,” he said. “I’ll read to you for a while, and then you can read some words to me.”

My tutor read to me, and then I started to read some sentences to him. After a while, I was reading entire pages by myself. “That’s great,” said my tutor, “Now read a little louder.”

I didn’t feel comfortable reading to someone else. I didn’t want him to hear me mess up words or get the grammar wrong.

“Okay,” said my coach. “We’ll come back and read it again later.”

I loved the book so much, I was happy to read it again, and every time I read it, my voice got louder.

We worked together in Team Read all year, and I kept trying harder and harder books. When the new Harry Potter book came out, I borrowed a copy from the library. I read it, then I read all the rest of the books in that series. For the first time, reading was fun.

A few years later, when I got to eighth grade, a representative from Team Read came to my school who said that eighth-graders could apply to be tutors in Team Read.
My student was a boy from Ethiopia named Yakub. I jumped at the chance to become a reading tutor for a little kid.

Yakub was so shy, he couldn’t even look me in the face and he was way behind the other readers in his class. I noticed that he was too bashful to make friends with his classmates.
At our first session together, I pulled out a book my old tutor read with me. When Yakub refused to look at the book, I told him not to worry about the words, but to look at the pictures instead.

We looked at the pictures and we looked for clues about the story. We asked each other silly questions. I tried to do everything my tutor did with me, to make Yakub comfortable.

“I want to keep reading,” he finally said.

If Team Read didn’t exist I never would have learned to love reading and I never would have introduced my student to books that got him excited to read as well.

This year, I’m back as a Team Read tutor for my fifth year. I’m also starting my senior year at Franklin with a 4.0 GPA.

I plan to attend the University of Washington next fall to get my degree in technical engineering. And I’m proud to report that I still read a lot and I now do my homework all the time.