Finding a new spark is a magical thing! When we try something new that excites and motivates us it can be empowering and life-changing. At Friends of the Children-Chicago we know the importance and beauty of Finding Your Spark and that is why it is one of nine core assets we focus on with our youth.
Julien* and his Friend, Jonathan, had the amazing experience the other day of finding their sparks together! While at the library, Jonathan introduced Julian to a new book, “EllRay Jakes Stands Tall!” by Sally Warner. The book follows a Black, short, third grader, EllRay Jakes, as he struggles to be noticed for his basketball talent. Together, Julien and Jonathan began taking turns reading the book and Julien did not put it down until they had read three full chapters. This is a huge accomplishment for Julien! He enjoys reading but has a short attention span and often can only read a few sentences before losing interest.
Jonathan noticed this achievement and knew this book had ignited a new spark in Julien - basketball! More than that, Julien was so excited to read a book about a boy that looked like him. Reading about a talented Black boy, Julien was able to see himself in EllRay Jake’s successes. He was inspired and felt a sense of pride.
Jonathan was also inspired seeing Julien so excited about books, and he found his spark for being a mentor. In this moment he felt what it truly means to be a Friend and realized that he is living his life’s purpose.
Julien and Jonathan plan to finish “EllRay Jakes Stands Tall!” in their next outing. They will explore Julien's spark in other ways too, Jonathan has already started teaching Julien proper form when shooting hoops and took him to a high school basketball practice. Together, they will continue to explore books centering Black characters and voices so Julien can nurture his interest in reading and sense of belonging.