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Teachers, others train for Niland reading academy

September 06, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

NILAND — Ten school days of nothing but reading instruction may not sound like much fun, but many at Grace Smith Elementary School here couldn't be more excited.

Teachers, community volunteers and others attended training sessions Wednesday and today to prepare for the upcoming two-week reading academy at the school.

The reading academy, sponsored and funded by Costco Corp., runs Monday through Sept. 21 and will serve 50 students from Grace Smith's second- through fifth-grades who scored below grade level on the reading portion of the standardized SAT 9 test.

Over the course of the 10-day academy, students will work in small groups and one-on-one with teachers, Costco reading specialists and employees and community volunteers to improve reading skills.


"Children benefit not only in their reading skills. Having someone come help them one-on-one helps their self-esteem," said Scott Breckenridge, manager of Costco Corp.'s employee outreach program.

This week's two-day training session taught the academy's instructors how to use the scripted Phono-Graphix method of reading instruction that will be used during the academy.

Grace Smith third-grade teacher Brenda Lee Mobley, one of those selected to teach in the reading academy, was optimistic about the next two weeks.

"I feel like it's going to help our students," Mobley said.

The Phono-Graphix method starts by teaching students sounds before letters, the opposite of the traditional way reading often is taught, Mobley said.

Principal Douglas Kline said even though Grace Smith's test scores have seen "significant improvement, almost 100 points" in the past two years, there are many students who still need help.

"The (test) questions are hard enough, but when you can't even read the questions or the answers it becomes a random selection," Kline said.

Diana Peacher, coordinator of the Niland Family Resource Center at Grace Smith, said this is the first Costco reading academy in Imperial County.

Based on the results of past reading academies across the country, she expects participating kids to improve their reading ability one grade level, on average, though some improve as much as three grade levels.

"When children can do something and know they do it well, it opens doors in their future," Peacher said.

Parents, critical to the success of their children, were invited to a meeting at the school Wednesday night to learn about the academy and how they can help their children by reading with them at home.

On the last day of the camp, students will take a test to determine their improvement and will have a reading carnival to celebrate the academy's end.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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