Promoting Literacy Through Partnership
32 million American adults are functionally illiterate. For Dr. Sam von Gillern, the key to changing that statistic starts in elementary school.
“We really want to catch students when they’re young. Once they get a little older, it can be really difficult to catch them back up. By that time, they’ve often missed out on important academic and social opportunities because of their struggles with school.”
Von Gillern, clinical assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development, serves as director of the Texas A&M Reading Clinic.
Thanks to a new partnership with Bryan ISD, the clinic operates in Jones Elementary and Fannin Elementary.
“They want their students to be successful but realized that sometimes they need a little extra help. That help often comes in the form of some after school one-on-one or small group tutoring and can really make a difference in working towards that goal,” explained Von Gillern.
Twice each week, pre-service teachers from the college spend an hour with 30 students from each school who struggle with reading.
In small groups and through one-on-one tutoring, the pre-service teachers read with the children and engage in targeted instruction, often in the form of phonics activities that address letter-sound correspondences.
“We want to make sure that students get a well-rounded experience in their tutoring. We incorporate many different activities to help with that goal.”
Research shows that children who struggle with reading are more likely to drop out of high school and be involved with crime and substance abuse. Faculty believe that high-quality reading instruction, like what is provided in the clinic, can make all the difference.
“We know that high-quality reading instruction is by far the best weapon against reading failure,” said Dr. Emily Cantrell, clinical assistant professor and co-director of the clinic. “If we can remove barriers to getting high-quality reading instruction, then we’re making a step forward in addressing the literacy issues that are so highly correlated with other bigger issues.”
The clinic is not just a benefit for students. It provides pre-service teachers a chance to hone their skills and prepare for their future in the classroom.
“We need to make sure that we provide opportunities for our pre-service teachers to engage in fieldwork with students, to give them authentic experiences teaching children literacy development,” explained von Gillern. “There’s only so much you can learn through books. Books are an important part – I’m a literacy person after all. However, time in the field, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the kids and helping those that need help to grow, is something that you can’t really learn from a book.”
Our college’s efforts to alleviate the reading problems in our community and beyond can be drastically reduced, but only by financially supporting this need. If you have a passion for reading comprehension and eliminating these problems, please contact Jody Ford ’99, Senior Director of Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 847-8655.
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