|In addition to working with the
children, reading center sponsors family literacy workshops, where
parents learn how to work with their children to advance reading skills.
May 5, 2005
By Valerie Orleans
The young girl pursed her lips, scrunched
up her face, and concentrated intently on the words before her.
Seated beside her, a Cal State Fullerton graduate student
offered guidance and encouragement. Twice a week, for 14 weeks,
dozens of elementary-school age students arrive on campus for special
one-on-one reading sessions through the university's Reading
Center, which was established in the 1970s.
The center – a warm, brightly lighted environment
– is filled with the best literature, both fiction and non-fiction,
available to students today. Within its walls, students experience
a safe and inviting environment. They know the goal is reading success.
The center's mission statement states clearly: Students'
success is our success.
In addition to working with the children, the center
sponsors family literacy workshops, where parents learn how to work
with their children to advance reading skills.
"The parents and caregivers love it,"
said Barbara Clark, center director. "We provide essential
and effective activities that help strengthen reading both in and
out of the classroom. In fact, we have files of ‘fan mail.'
It really is a wonderful opportunity for struggling children or
young adults having problems with reading. There is a great appreciation
for the accomplishments of our program. It has made a difference
in the lives of others."
Children who are accepted into the program are usually
one-and-a-half to two years behind in their reading. However, the
Reading Center program is not a quick fix. Most students spend anywhere
from one to two years perfecting their reading skills.
Renee Soderquist of Fullerton is amazed at the progress
her 8-year-old son, Dallas, has made since entering the program.
"He simply could not read or follow directions,"
his mother said. "Now he's reading 60-page chapter books
and actually likes to read. He even entered an essay contest at
his school. Because of his lack of reading skills, he was struggling
with virtually every subject in school, and now he's excelling.
He has much more confidence, and it's been wonderful to see
him succeed and feel good about himself."
Scott Cardwell of Yorba Linda voiced similar thoughts
about his fourth-grade daughter, Rachel. "After a few semesters,
she's now reading at grade level and really seems to enjoy
reading for the first time," he said. "She's finding
school much easier, and she's enjoying it much more. Before,
she was often frustrated. I don't see that now. Her teachers
are thrilled with her progress."
"Success in reading builds confidence,"
said Clark. "It's so critical. Once these students learn
to read, it opens up whole new worlds for them. Not only do they
experience success in school, but often for the first time, they
develop a sense of self-confidence as well. They're more willing
and eager to try new things. Since they've overcome one significant
hurdle, they're more willing to try to learn other skills."
An important component of the Reading Center is that
practicing teachers – in the last semester of the graduate
degree program in reading – work with students who are experiencing
significant reading difficulties. The program provides immense benefits
for all involved, noted Clark. Students receive intensive tutoring
in reading – a skill essential to academic success. Graduate
students receive the opportunity to refine their teaching skills,
utilizing research-supported skills and strategies they have gained
at the university.
Parents pay only $125 per semester for their children
to take part in the program. During this time, tutors meet with
students twice a week.
"The key to our success is that we break reading
down into incremental steps," said Clark. "With some
students, a book may be too much, so we use games or flash cards.
Once they've mastered necessary skills, we move on to books
and gradually increase the difficulty. The students are learning
to read much more easily and, as they succeed here, they become
more excited about reading for pleasure and in school.
"For teachers, that's one of the most
wonderful benefits – knowing that the world of reading has
been opened to a youngster."
Although most of the "clients" are children,
the center also has provided services to adults with referrals from
local businesses and employers, as well as postsecondary students
at Cal State Fullerton.
Because of the significant demand for the center
(there is an extensive waiting list for its services), the university
hopes to expand the facility on campus and open another on the El
Toro Campus. The El Toro center will have an expanded focus and
will be called the Community Learning, Research and Resource Center.
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