The following report was written by Mrs. Victoria Norman who teaches reading and spelling to inmates at Western Youth Institution, a State of North Carolina Juvenile Youth Facility, in Morganton, NC. Western Youth Institution has an inmate capacity of over 800 individuals and operates the largest school in the North Carolina Prison System. Mrs. Norman previously taught seven years in public schools and five years in private schools. She has received the Orton-Gillingham training for dyslexic readers and has directed a reading program at a local high school. Her current employment assignment at Western Youth Institution is to teach reading and spelling to inmates between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two who function below a 3.5 grade level.
1. What type of reading program do you use and how does it work?
Currently, we are using two reading programs. For the functionally illiterate students (reading below a 3.5 grade level), we use the WE ALL CAN READ program published by Winding River Books. There is a student text, student reader, flash cards, game and a supporting video program to assist the teacher who does not have a foundational knowledge. It also provides repetition for the beginning reader.
2. What professional development is required? What, if any, is provided by the publishing company? For the WE ALL CAN READ program a video series accompanies the program. A teacher can view the video and practice for each lesson and/or view it with the students, too. The unique thing about this program is that a student can work with or without the teacher once the basic concept has been introduced in the lesson. A student can repeat a video lesson as many times as is needed until the concept becomes automatic. In other words, re-teaching does not take the teacher's time.
3. How does the reading program develop proficiency? What are some of the outcomes? Once students complete the program with 80% accuracy or higher they are moved into the Title I Reading Class where they are given follow-up instruction that builds comprehension, grammar and writing. Some student outcomes are very remarkable. Many of the students who struggled to read one-syllable words leave the program able to attack and decode multi-syllabic words.
4. How does it support effective reading instruction? Is it presented in a pull-out program or delivered school-wide? Who delivers the instruction?
Reading begins at a very basic level of phonemic awareness in the alphabetic approach. You may want to read the current research that Dr. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz (Yale University: Yale Center) have recently published about non-impaired readers and impaired readers (LD) and how their brain functions during the reading process. The missing link for most disabled readers is in the phonemes and orthographic patterns. These must be explicitly taught with an intense and scientific approach. The WE ALL CAN READ program meets this criterion.
I currently use this program with a pre-targeted group of students. In fact, it is required that they complete the program before they are allowed to take any other GED classes, however, they are permitted to take vocational classes. It would be appropriate for a student to be pulled out into a small group for instruction.
A willing regular ed. teacher (preferably one who believes in the alphabetic concept of teaching reading and realizes that the basis of language acquisition begins with a knowledge of phonemes) should teach the program.
5. How effective is it? What has been the response from students, teachers, parents and community?
I believe this program to be very effective. Students learn the basic building blocks of language acquisition and reading. Too often teachers find it impossible to meet the needs of the poor reader without a specified and intense form of instruction. Most teachers are relieved to not have to instruct the very poor reader in a class with advanced students.
Students are usually ecstatic that they not only read multi-syllabic words but can spell them, too. A student commented to me shortly after he began the class: "Mrs. Norman, if someone had taught me this [reading and spelling SIC] when I was out in the real world, I wouldn't even be here." One student wrote home and asked his mother if she thought his spelling had improved since he started school. He said, "Mom said my letters home are easier to read than they used to be."
6. What is the cost of the program? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get a price list.
7. Other comments/information.
In the past, as a public school teacher I always encountered students that were persistently poor readers and nothing I did actually helped them do any better than when they arrived in my class on the first day. If I worked with them, it was time-consuming and I was not equipped with a program that was effective. After attending an Orton-Gilligham training to learn how to teach reading disabled and dyslexic students, I finally understood why I could not reach this group of students. The training I received helped me to tutor students in a one-on-one basis. The WE ALL CAN READ program allows me to teach groups of students with similar abilities in the same classroom. The videos allow me to re-teach but does not take time away from other students. I highly recommend that you investigate this program as a possible program to teach students at the lowest level of reading.