Clinic guides children to a new world of words Program strives to make reading fun

July 19, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

On a recent morning, Daniel Jackson could be found kneeling on the floor of a small classroom, surrounded by words. Words written on the blackboard. Words typed in children's books. Words printed on paper.

Small words, big words. Sentences, stories, even recipes.

It seems each phrase the 7-year-old boy has learned has opened a door.

The words on the blackboard have taught Daniel how to pronounce the long words he once stumbled over. The words in the books have given him a great idea for a summer job -- a lemonade stand. And words printed by his small hand have helped Daniel realize the power of his imagination.

"I've learned a lot of stuff this summer," said Daniel, one of 66 children enrolled in a reading clinic run by Western Maryland College at Friendship Valley Elementary School.

"I've learned how to read the longer words that are harder, and that's very important because one day I'm going to be a police officer or FBI agent," Daniel said.

"When you have a job like that, you need to be able to talk to young people and old people. You need to know lots of words, especially the longer ones."

As friends in his Hampstead neighborhood played video games or swam in backyard pools, Daniel and other youths at the clinic sat in air-conditioned classrooms, improving their reading skills with word games and writing exercises. The four-week clinic, which costs $125 per child, ended Friday.

Many children enrolled in the reading program have been di-

agnosed with learning disabilities. Some have had difficulty keeping up with their classmates.

"We give parents a guarantee," said Joan Develin Coley, director of the clinic. "We guarantee that every child will be successful every day, that every child will read [a story] every day, that every child will write every day and that every child will want to come back every day."

At the end of the program, a written report on each child is forwarded to his or her school, to let the child's teachers know which techniques are effective and which aren't.

"We are in a unique position to help the children because we are more specialized than the schools could ever possibly be," said Coley, who founded the clinic 25 years ago, and is provost and dean of faculty at Western Maryland. "Because of this, we are able to give feedback to teachers, let them know what will help carry these children through."

A key to the program's success is the enthusiasm of its clinicians, all of whom are Western Maryland College graduate students. This year, 21 master's degree candidates from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland are working with the children.

"This program is wonderful because it allows us to apply the research and rationale we've learned in the classroom to the real world," said Dana Walton, 27, a former science teacher from Hampstead who is studying to become a reading specialist.

"Our hope is that by the end of the program, the children will enjoy reading," said Walton. "They'll select a book on their own, sit down and read it."

As if on cue, 9-year-old Kyle Lentzner pipes up: "I'm already reading on my own." He and his brother, Keith, 7, attended the clinic this year.

"The kids loved it," said their father, Bill Lentzner, who dropped by the clinic to watch his youngest perform in a play. "They've shown a lot more interest in reading since coming to the clinic. They come home with stories they've written or projects they've done, and they're so proud."

Said Daniel, the young entrepreneur with the lemonade stand and dreams of becoming an FBI agent: "I've had such a good time, I'm going to start a reading clinic at home for my sister. She couldn't come."

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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