ELDERSBURG — Remember Dick, Jane and Spot?
That was the first-grade reader of the baby boom generation.
Dick, Jane and Spot are long dead in the 1990s as the baby boomers' babies tackle reading a whole different way, thanks in part to newideas from teachers like Mary Katsafanas.
"We're immersing the students in literature and letting them learn to read by reading and towrite by writing," she said.
"We're using meaningful, highly motivational books for reading and we're allowing the students to write from what's in their head, rather than copying teacher-imposed sentences."
A first-grade teacher at Eldersburg Elementary School for 19 years, Katsafanas started a new program last year to motivate beginning readers: the Reading Club, to provide enrichment and reinforcementto students who may have hit a stumbling block.
"We use materialsto improve the students' natural abilities and let them progress at their own pace," Katsafanas said. "The club just gives an extra push to strengthen their reading and writing strategies."
By strategies, she means the variety of methods used to teach children to read andwrite.
Students learn to read using phonetic clues, describing pictures and thinking critically. They're encouraged to write what theywant and to tell their own stories, from rough draft to final copy.
During this important learning time, students are encouraged in everything they do. Even if something isn't correct, Katsafanas will find something positive to say.
"The club does a lot for their confidence level," she said. "They realize that what they know, they can do, but they might be afraid to do it. In the club, they do things andwe celebrate each success and encourage, encourage, encourage."
Students come into the club eagerly, ready to read and be read to. Club time begins with two students reading to the group, then Katsafanastakes over, reading whatever book they're doing.
Parent volunteers take smaller groups and work with them on a specific letter or strategy, then students have writing time.
"I like the pictures and easy words," said Megan Bettis, 7, daughter of Richard and Lori Bettis,as she worked on a notebook of words and pictures of things beginning with different letters.
Cathy Leister, 6, daughter of Robert andLouise Leister, likes looking at pictures and learning new words. Jason McKenzie, 6, son of James and Deborah McKenzie, said he likes reading action books.
"I get to read and I like to read by myself," said Lewis Hicks, 6, son of Lewis and Maureen Hicks.
Katsafanas is thrilled when she hears students say they like to read, "because that's what it's all about -- we're teaching children to love to read andwrite, rather than just teaching them to read and write."
Katsafanas received a $500 Innovative Teachers Grant from Towson State University last fall that purchased materials for club projects.
The award does not surprise parent volunteer Paula Schwab, whose son is in the class.
"This is a great program and she is a great motivator,"Schwab said. "My active 6-year-old now comes home from school wanting to read and wanting to go to the library."