Reading program enhances youth

Mike Linn

Three first grade girls read children books at the Portales Municipal School Board meeting Monday night, validating the effectiveness of a new program in the area teaching low-level readers techniques for improving.
The first-year reading recovery program in Portales has nationwide appeal for the techniques first taught to teachers, then relayed to students struggling with reading, explained teacher leader Carolyn Howard.
“The program teaches reading techniques through problem solving,” Howard said. “We’ve always taught problem solving with math, and never thought of (teaching) reading the same way but it works.”
Teachers taught students 30 minutes a day for 13 to 20 weeks with one-on-one instruction. The teachers received certification for the program via a two-semester, six-credit class at Eastern New Mexico University.
Many of the 55 Steiner Elementary first graders who participated in the program began at level 0 and didn’t have enough language vocabulary to begin reading, Howard said. By the end of the program 58 percent of the students were at the designed first grade reading level (reading levels between 14-16), even though many of the students weren’t designated enough time to finish the program.
“The program for Whitley has been a Godsend,” said Michelle Bomar after her daughter read a story at the meeting. “Before this program she could only read books with a few words.”
The techniques are specific for each student, school officials say, and some include rereading the sentence, making sounds into the word and sounding the word in the brain before giving it a go.
“You can’t put a dollar figure on the changes you see in children,” Portales Schools Superintendent Jim Holloway said. “With these new techniques, success will mushroom.”
The school board also:
• Opted to not approve an agreement with a Head Start preschool program. The program would cost $25 a day for children whose mothers teach in the Portales School District. The school board opted to continue its preschool care instead, which runs $14 a day per child.