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EDUCATION REPORT – September 25, 2003: Reading Recovery - 2003-09-25

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

More than one-million school children in the United States have gone through a program called Reading Recovery. The program is for six-year-olds who are struggling to learn to read.

The Reading Recovery Council of North America says more than one-fifth of United States public schools with first grades use the program.

The Reading Recovery method calls for a specially trained reading teacher to work with children one at a time. The lessons take a half-hour each school day. They employ reading, writing and the study of the letters of the alphabet.

Reading Recovery came to the United States in nineteen-eighty-four. Education expert Marie (pronounced MAHR-ee) Clay of New Zealand developed the program. A number of other countries also use this method. Programs can differ from school to school.

Reading Recovery lessons take place for twelve to twenty weeks. During the lessons, the teacher looks for ways that the child seems to learn best. Then the teacher works to help the student develop these strategies to solve problems in reading. The idea is for the student to continue to use and extend these strategies each time he or she reads.

Reading Recovery students read many short books. Some of the books are written in a way similar to spoken language. Children also read and write stories or messages in their own words. The material gets harder with time.

The lessons end when the student’s reading ability is within the average level of the class. The Reading Recovery Council of North America says eighty percent of students who finish the lessons can read and write within their class average.

The council is a group with eleven-thousand members. The group named a new president this month. Mary Jackson is director of special programs for the Fort Bend public school system in Sugar Land, Texas. Mizz Jackson says more than ninety-nine percent of the Reading Recovery students in the schools passed the state reading examination.

Some administrators may not like the higher cost of the Reading Recovery method compared to other interventions. Teachers, after all, work with only small numbers of first graders. But supporters say it saves money in the end. They say it helps prevent the sad results and expense of letting children fail in school.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.