Alma Schrader School seven-year-old Isaiah Lee struggled with pronouncing words, discriminating sounds, rhyming and reading in general, but after he came to “college” last spring semester, his family has seen a world of difference.
“I love it,” says his mother, Lauren Lee, who said she looks forward to Isaiah continuing in Read to Succeed Plus this fall. “If it weren’t for this program, what they were doing to reach him in the school wasn’t enough. It’s made a huge difference. He’s caught on so much more.”
Isaiah took part in the Read to Succeed Plus (R2S+) Reading Academy set to get under way again this fall at Southeast Missouri State University. Under the auspices of Southeast’s Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education, the academy provides struggling readers in grades 1-6 an environment to take risks and build confidence as they develop literacy skills to become proficient readers.
The Read to Succeed Plus literacy academy offers an hour of instruction once a week to families in the southeast Missouri region. Fall hours will be 4:30-5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday in the EDvolution Center in the Scully Building on the Southeast campus beginning Sept. 12.
Children and their caregiver attend each week and participate together in home assignments.
“It’s been a blessing,” says Isaiah’s grandmother, Yvonne Lee. “It works. It is a needed program.”
R2s+ offers weekly individual literacy instruction by Southeast teacher candidates who are in the last semester before they student teach. Instructional sessions and teacher candidates are supervised by University instructors. The program is modeled on a Balanced Literacy approach that includes guided reading, phonemic awareness, word work and phonics instruction, writing about reading, fluency, speaking and listening, comprehension and vocabulary instruction. Teacher candidates use technology and individual instruction plans as part of the learning experience to help children boost their skills.
The academy offers: one-on-one tutoring sessions and instruction for children with teacher candidates who are majoring in elementary education; individualized assessment and instruction based on the specific reading needs for each child; progress reports to families on the work of their child; recommendations at the end of the semester; and end of the semester conferences.
To best meet the children’s needs, participants take a series of literacy assessments. Afterwards, the teacher candidates and the University supervisor evaluate the assessments to create a detailed Literacy Profile outlining the children’s reading and writing strengths. The profile gives their parents individualized recommendations to help their child develop their literacy skills. This evaluation also helps guide the Southeast teacher candidates in delivering instruction to students.
Dr. Debra Porter, assistant professor in the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education, helped launch the academy. She has devoted 24 years to literacy education.
“Literacy is the foundation of all learning,” she said, adding students rely on comprehension to learn material in all subject areas as they progress through school.
Soon-to-be Jackson East Elementary third grader Audrey Leek took advantage of the academy last spring. She is bright and reads above her grade level. Before coming to the academy, though, unfamiliar words often frustrated her, but her teacher candidate, Madison Mohnsen of Jackson, Missouri, and Austin Huffman of Benton, Missouri, helped her with the concepts of “chunking” and “context clues” to overcome these challenges.
“Audrey is an excellent reader. We’ve been working on strategies for words she may not be familiar with, Huffman said.
Now, instead of looking at the teacher, she tries to figure it out herself,” Mohnsen said. “It’s so awesome to be able to say we helped that situation.”
Also benefitting from the academy is Peyton Roberts, 7, of Alma Schrader, who needed help with reading comprehension. By the end of last school year, Roberts made 100 percent on a reading comprehension assignment.
Mohnsen is one of 50 Southeast students who last spring provided reading instruction in the academy. While the academy is designed to improve children’s reading skills, R2S+ also helps Southeast teacher candidates develop exemplary teaching practices in literacy instruction while working with children who are not reading at their given grade level. The academy offers Southeast teacher candidates an experiential learning opportunity in Southeast’s College of Education where state-of-the-art research is conducted to produce teachers who excel in literacy instruction.
“I just think it’s awesome,” Mohnsen said. “It’s useful in the field and toward our teaching career. It’s really helpful,” she said, in building her skills as she prepares to become a teacher.
Southeast early childhood education major Olivia Amick also worked in the academy last spring.
“It’s so cool to see progress” in the areas of comprehension and fluency with the children, she said.
Amick says the academy also helped her in learning how to conduct assessments and how to interact with both children and their parents.
Porter said R2S+ also has been successful because the program complements the work of Southeast’s teacher candidates who also see some of the same children in their field experiences in area schools. Together, the R2S+ program and their field experiences help the Southeast teacher candidates’ understanding of the children’s curriculum and behavior.
Children from Alma Schrader, Clippard and Franklin schools in Cape Girardeau along with students at East Elementary in Jackson participated last spring. The program is funded by GRACES of the United Way and the Southeast College of Education.
R2S+ is a spinoff of the Read to Succeed program for kindergartners and first graders, which is taught by community volunteers.
To apply to participate in the program this fall, visit http://www.semo.edu/eese/reading-clinic.html and click on the “Apply Now” button.