July 20, 2008

College Students Teach Kids to Read

By Stephen Bartlett, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Jul. 20--PLATTSBURGH -- Lori Robinson is amazed at the growth she's seen in her children's reading skills.

The credit goes to Plattsburgh State's Literacy Education Center, she said.

"The program is phenomenal."

The center operates under the Department of Literacy Education at Plattsburgh State, which offers courses to help undergraduate education majors incorporate instruction into their content areas. It also offers a graduate program for certified teachers looking to gain expertise and certification in literacy.

Parents of children ages 4 to 16 can sign their children up for literacy experiences and reading tutorial each semester through the Literacy Education Center. Tutoring services are connected to graduate courses in the literacy program.

"The goal is for future literacy specialists to apply the skills and professional knowledge they learned in the classroom," said Dr. Peggy Snowden, director of the Literacy Education Center. "Children are referred to the program by classroom teachers or school principals."

Children receive individual tutors who implement a plan for improving the child's strengths and correcting identified areas of weakness. They also receive ongoing evaluation of progress and a final report that contains recommendations for continued study.

"The young children learn about letters and sounds and get to learn to read simple books," Snowden said. "Older children practice skills for reading informational texts. They spend time writing and receive one-on-one time with the students, who do assessments to find out what the children need and base the program on that.

"In class, our students learn about theory, and with programs such as this they get to apply theory."

Krista Filion, a Plattsburgh State graduate student from Churubusco, loved her experience.

"It's been amazing working with all the different age groups," she said. "This type of hands-on experience helps you prepare for when you get out in the real world."

She's already landed a job with Chateaugay Central School.

Recently she helped Sam and Sadie Robinson act out the book "Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog" at an open house for the center.

Sadie played the pigeon, who had a hot dog. Sam assumed the role of a duckling, determined to find out what it tasted like.

Eventually, the duckling's pestering prevailed when the pigeon split the hot dog in two.

Afterward, Sam read a story he helped illustrate.

"I've seen so much growth in them from this program," Mrs. Robinson said. "They've gotten better with their reading skills, and this keeps them active when school is out."

Her children were initially upset upon learning they'd be taking classes in the summer, but that quickly changed.

"Now they are disappointed they are done," Mrs. Robinson said.

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