(this story was written by Karen Huppertz for the AJC: June 28, 2014)
Imagine your surprise as a brand new teacher, beginning your career in a classroom of thirty or so little 6-year old sponges of learning desire. Your task is to teach the basics of reading and writing to prepare students for future learning.
But you quickly realize your college education, the one designed to prepare you for the classroom, never specifically taught you how to teach a student to read.
This was the case not long ago according to a number of teachers I’ve surveyed. Exciting change has occurred.
At the University of Georgia, special education, early childhood education, and other education majors now have the opportunity to obtain graduate-level multi-sensory reading instruction training specifically shown to be effective for struggling readers. This training has been proven highly effective for those diagnosed as dyslexic. And according to Gwinnett County Public Schools “early intervention and multisensory instruction are recommended to support students” who experience difficulty in reading, proficiency in writing and spelling, and understanding math.
UGA’s Department of Communication Sciences and Special Education is now offering master’s-level courses in multi-sensory reading instruction that explore the definition and identification of dyslexia, as well as training and videotaped practice using the evidence-based method.
In addition, Jennifer H. Lindstrom, associate professor and graduate coordinator offers an optional First Year Odyssey course called ‘Dyslexia Across the Life Span.’ And just this month, in conjunction with the International Dyslexia Association Georgia branch, UGA co-sponsored a three-day Wilson Reading Training program. Thirty available spots filled up immediately with a sizable waiting list.
Obviously there is demand and desire to learn effective ways to help struggling readers.
According to Lindstrom, by next summer UGA hopes to offer a four-week intensive clinic for readers needing assistance. UGA students trained in multi-sensory reading instruction will work closely with young readers, preparing them with the tools needed to succeed in the classroom.
This next batch of teachers joining metro area public schools will come prepared with tools to help all students learn to read, not just the fortunate natural readers who would learn to read anyway. Now, if we could talk our schools into providing the same training for existing teachers.