Reading Recovery will soon help more students - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Reading Recovery will soon help more students

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WATERLOO (KWWL)-- There are more than 42 million Americans who cannot read or write, and the rate of illiteracy is climbing each year.  But many school districts across the country, including right here in Iowa, are hoping to reverse that trend by using the "Reading Recovery" program.  And soon that program will be expanding into more schools.

Learning to read and write doesn't come easily for all students.  So school districts want to intervene before a student's challenges become a major problem that hinders learning. 

"We know that we can make a difference if we make the difference early," said Salli Forbes, Reading Recovery Center director at the University of Northern Iowa.

That's why several Iowa schools have implemented the "Reading Recovery" program.  Reading Recovery students are typically first graders.  They take a small part of their school day to come to a special site, like one at Greenbrier in Waterloo.  A teacher works with them one-on-one to improve their reading and writing skills.

"The sooner these children are able to learn from good classroom instruction and to learn independently, without always having additional help, the greater the chance they'll be really competent as they move up the grades," Forbes said.

Educators observe Reading Recovery sessions from behind a one-way mirror.  The mirror allows them to observe without interfering.  They can see and hear the student to know how they're doing and figure out how lessons can best be tailored to fit each child's needs.

"It doesn't work unless the teacher is highly skilled.  These teachers need to learn how to observe what that means in terms of what the child is trying and looking across time to see if this is developing.  Are they becoming more skilled at taking action, solving problems, and monitoring what they're reading and writing?" Forbes said.

Students are usually able to get up to the reading and writing skill level of their peers in less than 5 months.  That success is why UNI's Reading Recovery program was recently awarded a $3 million grant from the US Department of Education.

"For UNI and here in Iowa, that means is that we will be able to train 250 reading recovery teachers in the next five years, including this year," said Forbes.

That means more schools will be able to bring Reading Recovery programs on board-- teaching more students how to improve their skills while writing a new chapter on education that aims to end illiteracy.

UNI will administer the grant over the next five years to Iowa School Districts.  Schools must meet certain criteria to be eligible.  They also have to commit to having a reading recovery program for at least three years.

Additional note:

Ohio State University is the lead college for the Reading Recovery grant.  Sixteen other universities, including UNI are partners in the project.  The schools were required to obtain a 20 percent match in private funds to receive the grant funding.  The R.J. McElroy Trust supplied UNI with $150,000 towards its matching funds.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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