Clinic turns page for slow readers

Tutors: Towson University program gives individualized assistance in reading and writing for students of all ages.

November 14, 1999|By Ron Snyder | Ron Snyder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

School has not always come easily for Everton Carington.

The 11-year-old pupil at Baltimore County's Woodlawn Middle School suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, and sometimes has problems keeping up with his reading. So Renne Wallace, the sixth-grader's mother, decided to get him extra help.

Wallace turned to Towson University's 32-year-old reading clinic, where tutors -- all of them certified teachers seeking graduate credits in reading -- help students of all ages with reading or writing.

The hourlong, once-a-week tutoring sessions cost clients $75 per semester, with grants and payment plans available to those who can't afford the price.

"I heard about the program from a friend, and I would have to say it is the best bargain in town," Wallace said. "I would recommend it to anyone who needs help."

Barbara Laster, head of the reading clinic, said it gives teachers the chance to apply what they are learning in the classroom about reading instruction.

"Here we don't stress on where the clients should be, but where they are now and how to get them to the next level," said Laster, in her sixth year running the clinic, which has 50 clients this semester.

Students, mostly from the elementary and middle school grades, meet at the clinic from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday, each with a personal tutor. They work on comprehension, writing, vocabulary development and other reading skills.

Each client gets to take out three books a week from the clinic's library, and is asked to write a summary or to take part in other activities to help improve reading skills.

"I believe that more kids would get hooked on reading if they got the opportunity to choose their own books," Laster said. "This just doesn't happen most of the time in school."

The clinic's philosophy seems to be working for students such as Everton, who has seen his reading grades improve tremendously since starting at the clinic.

"They let me read sports books and `Goosebumps,' but have also helped me understand what I am reading," Everton said.

Barb Kotelnicki tutors Everton. The Catonsville Elementary School first-grade teacher has worked with Everton on decoding words, vocabulary development and reading fluently. She said she has seen marked improvement in his work.

"Everton is doing great," Kotelnicki said. "Being in a one-on-one environment, he is more apt to ask questions. Also, this is a student-based -- not grade-based program -- so he sets the pace we work with."

While the young people are being tutored, the parents take part in a workshop on how to help their children improve in school.

"Teaching the parents is one of the best pathways for teaching the children, because they can reinforce at home what the children learn here," Laster said.

The reading clinic also has tried to reach out to the community. For the past two years, the university has provided a bus to bring 10 pupils from Southeast Middle School to the clinic for a series of free springtime sessions.

"We hope to continue our relationship with Southeast Middle this spring," Laster said.

For children and adults who have been through the reading clinic and still feel they need help, the university offers a free "literacy clinic," with similar tutoring sessions. The literacy clinic is taught by undergraduate students and volunteers from the community, overseen by the graduate students.

"We started it to give people a place to go to help them build on what they learned at the reading clinic, as well as being able to offer help to as many people as we can," said Laster.

Information on the Towson University reading and literacy clinics: 410-830-2558.

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