Eaton Rapids schools are developing programs to help special needs children learn to read and become more efficient in their studies. One program in particular, the Literacy Pilot at Lockwood Elementary School, works with the Eaton Intermediate School District to help children in first-fourth grades learn how to read better and prepare themselves for future educational opportunities.
The program was first proposed in November 2007 and is in the preliminary stages of testing students to see how they are progressing in their studies. “On-going testing is occurring with kids that are showing signs that they are at risk for or already are below grade level,” said Director of Curriculum for the Eaton Rapids School District, Judy Foss.
“There are 50 students currently in the program,” said Foss. The students helped by the program are those who have not yet reached the intellectual capacity they should for their age group and grade level. With the Literacy Pilot, they are given additional opportunities to gain the skills needed to continue learning at a consistent pace so they can catch up to their fellow classmates.
Eileen M. Grant-Ball, the principal of Lockwood Elementary explained that the program assesses students and works with teachers to create strategies and obtain data that will allow them to tailor a plan to help those students who fall behind learn more effectively. Recently, the Literacy Pilot has also been granted $2,000 worth of books and materials from the school district to help the children learn.
Along with checking out books, students also use MP3 players as instructional tools to help them develop reading skills. Books are read aloud and turned into MP3 files for the students and they are able to use this resource in and out of the classroom. Grant-Ball explained that first graders use the recordings to help them along as they read, allowing them to combine sight and hearing to enhance their reading abilities. Second graders first read the books on their own, then listen to the recordings as a form of reinforcement, while third and fourth grade students use the recordings in a book club setting during after school hours.
Because reading at a young age can be difficult, parents are expected to be involved in the learning process. According to Grant-Ball, parents are required to read with their children and turn in a signed sheet stating how much reading their child has completed. The parents are also asked to encourage their children and help them realize that reading can be fun and rewarding. “Encouraging them to read at home is a big part of it,” said Foss.
As a reward for meeting the reading criteria, students are given education-friendly treats, such as book marks, to encourage reading.
The program is run by Literacy Consultant Linda Ripley. She is directly involved with the children’s learning process and although she is not a full-time employee of the school district, she is available to help the students for two full days and one half day per week.
With the help of Ripley, Lockwood Elementary is also planning a summer program to help these students during their vacation time. “Children who are not meeting the benchmarks need more help,” said Grant-Ball.
The summer program is a way for the focus to be on them and for them to further develop their reading and comprehension skills. As explained by Foss, children will be invited to participate in the summer program at the end of the school year. A letter will be sent home to the parents of each child who qualifies for the program, asking them to participate.
The program, titled Summer Reading Academy, will begin July 8 and will last until mid-August. It will occur three times a week for a total of six weeks.