by Claire Miller
Cliff Johnson gets chills when he tells the story of an elementary school student with cerebral palsy who learned to write her name for the first time.
“We gave her a felt-tipped pen to write with and if you could have seen that child’s expression when she finally saw her name on that paper – it was unbelievable,” said Johnson, who works with the Reading Recovery program at Georgia State University’s College of Education. “From then on, this child’s teacher shifted her thinking from looking at what kids can’t do to what they have the potential to do.”
For Johnson, this is a moment that reminds him of how the Reading Recovery program can make a difference in a child’s life.
Reading Recovery is an international early intervention that trains teachers how to identify students with trouble reading and writing and how to create tailored lessons to help them improve those skills. In its 20-year history on campus, the Reading Recovery program at GSU has trained several hundred teachers and teacher leaders and has impacted more than 60,000 children in the Southeast.
At its 20th anniversary celebration on Aug. 26, Floretta Thornton-Reid, executive director of Reading Recovery at GSU, said the program has recently received support through an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide training at no cost to teachers in several metro-Atlanta schools.
The program also was named a “Bright Spot” in The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national effort sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other organizations to “close the gap in reading achievement that separates many low-income students from their peers,” according to the campaign’s website. This recognizes Reading Recovery’s commitment to and proven success with improving student achievement.
For example, Reading Recovery has made strides in working with English Language Learners and children in special education classes. Sue Duncan, a teacher trainer in the program, said that 89 percent of all English Language Learners in Gwinnett County who worked one-on-one with Reading Recovery teachers learned to read at levels on par with their peers.
Duncan believes that the program has been able to transcend cultural differences because it addresses the essential skills children need to learn in order to read and write.
“Over the years, we’ve discovered that Reading Recovery is something very fundamental to the reading and writing process and can work across nations and languages,” she said. “We’ve seen it spread to so many countries, all because teachers are interested in helping children with their reading skills early on.”
For more information about Reading Recovery at GSU, visit http://education.gsu.edu/ece/reading_recovery.htm.