Reading Recovery Centre Now Open
In our last issue of The Arrow, readers were introduced to Reading Recovery, an early intervention program designed to assist children in first grade who are having difficulty learning to read and write. The program was created in New Zealand and now reaches students and teachers worldwide.
Several of the schools MFNERC works with have teachers who are trained in Reading Recovery; yet, achieving the necessary instruction has not always been easy or convenient … until now.
For the very first time in the history of the Reading Recovery program there is a Teacher Training Centre run by First Nations for First Nations. It is housed in Peguis Central School on Peguis First Nation, and teachers from schools all across the Interlake will now have access to Reading Recovery program training – taught by First Nations teacher leader Gloria Sinclair.
“It is the first of its kind, really in all of North America,” states Allyson Matczuk of Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning. “There are six Reading Recovery training centres in Manitoba already, but this is the first where everything is entirely First Nations based.”
Matczuk is part of a committed team of education professionals who never gave up hope that the centre would become a reality. That team also includes Rab Subedar, Director of Service Delivery, and Irene Huggins, Literacy Specialist of MFNERC and Sharon Bear, Vice Principal, Early Years, and Jean Malcolm, Principal of Peguis Central School. “I must commend Sharon [Bear],” continues Matczuk. “She sought to accommodate the program in every way. And it helped that Peguis needed the least renovating to build the centre, a beautiful Cadillac of training centres I must add!”
Teachers who are in training visit the Reading Recovery Centre twice weekly. In the case of Peguis, there are currently nine teachers from communities such as Fisher River, Jackhead and Riverton enrolled. They learn via lessons and discussions, but also through another effective method. They observe each other conducting Reading Recovery lessons through a one-way glass window. This way, the child who is receiving instruction doesn’t feel intimidation when being watched. Then, teachers evaluate and assist each other through what they have seen and heard.
Upon completion of the program, these teachers will take the skills they have practiced back to their classrooms and provide one-to-one tutoring, five days per week, 30 minutes a day to their Reading Recovery students. The lessons consist of a variety of reading and writing experiences, and continue until the child can read at or above the class average.
“Reading is the foundation that can carry you anywhere, and I believe that this program will help to bridge the gaps for First Nations students.” Those words, spoken by Peguis Education Director, Carrie Sutherland, sum up well the atmosphere of the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the centre. Many educators, community members and other guests were on hand to mark the auspicious occasion. “It is so important for our people to share the best practices coming out for literacy. And now we can right here at home. Our teachers won’t have to travel so far to gain the skills they need,” concluded Sutherland. Guests at the ribbon cutting had the chance to witness these skills first-hand by observing a Reading Recovery lesson.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Reading Recovery is the speed at which children’s reading and writing improve. Visitors were told that the student they were about to see, before his Reading Recovery lessons, knew seven letters. He could write his full name, but couldn’t tell which was his first and which was his last. He was falling behind and, not surprisingly, was often in the principal’s office for acting out.
To see him in action now was nothing short of extraordinary. After only 11 lessons this remarkable first grader can read full sentences, write full sentences, put words in a correct sequence, answer questions about what he is doing, all with confidence and all while staying focused and engaged. It truly was amazing to see. Following the lesson, teacher Gloria Sinclair was very quick to transfer any praise she received onto the student. “It’s all him! I just encourage him, he does all the work.” And just like that, a student who may have fallen through the cracks now has a chance to reach his full potential.