04/11/2012 12:24 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2012

A Stranger Makes Magic

Yesterday we read with a group of children who visit with us and read at our Pajama Program Reading Center, NYC, once a month. There are about 22 children in this particular group and they are all four years old. Some are painfully shy while a handful of them smile from ear to ear from the moment they arrive to their last waves goodbye an hour later. One boy, Timothy, has visited our Reading Center with this group several times so far. To say Timothy is shy is putting it mildly -- he always seems frightened and never wants to participate. The first time he came here he cried and hid behind our futon for the entire session. The second time he didn't cry but he stayed hidden behind the futon for the hour. Yesterday no one knew what to expect -- especially since our venue was different. One of our sponsors hosted our Reading Party with lunch for the children in their lovely, very large space. Two of us from Pajama Program had our eyes on Timothy when the children had all arrived. Daisy, who organizes all our Reading Parties signaled to me that Timothy was particularly withdrawn. We thought we might have to keep an eye on him and ask his caretaker for help if he became difficult to manage. We were soon distracted as we watched each of our 20 volunteers pair with a child to begin choosing books for the one-on-one reading portion of the afternoon.

I watched as the children and the volunteers chose their first books together and took seats around the room. I turned and saw Genna who was coupled with Timothy, sit on the floor cross legged waiting for her reading partner.

Then magic happened.

Timothy found a book he liked, and with it, he seemed to have found some comfort too. Book in hand, he plopped right into Genna's lap. No coaxing was needed... no soothing talk, fuss or convincing preceded his move. It was amazing to see him nestling close to her in complete silence, as she read to him page by page. Genna had no idea about Timothy's past behavior. She had no idea what magic had happened. Genna's gentle loving way gave Timothy the space and comfort he needed to get close to her as naturally as a little boy cozies up to his mother. For the entire reading session Timothy and Genna were in their own world, the two of them and a storybook.

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