By Michelle Seeber
Three Eastern New Mexico University graduate students, as part of a class project, spent the last six weeks working with gradeschoolers to improve literacy through reading and doing projects by following directions.
The students — Pattie Donovan, Erika Waters and Tammy Riser — taught about five students at James Elementary School that reading can be fun through a variety of projects that included reading subjects on sports, pets, gardening, humor and story writing.
At their last session Tuesday evening, the children were given the topic of cooking.
It began with each child taking turns choosing a book on cooking until everyone had 10 books to take home.
They then were given a recipe for rice cereal treats, utensils used for cooking the treats, and a checklist for them to complete. This was their cooking project that they would take home.
The students then went into the school kitchen and actually make the treats while reading directions on the recipe.
Asked what she had learned during the literacy sessions, 9-year-old Nebraska Tinsley said, “Reading is a lot of fun.”
This is what Donovan, Waters and Riser said they hoped to accomplish through their projects.
“Since the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect, the schools are being held more accountable for literacy,” Riser said.
Groups of graduate students throughout New Mexico are using these methods to teach children to read, she said.
Riser is earning her Master’s degree in reading with hope that she will either become a reading specialist or a literacy mentor, she said.
Two weeks ago, the graduate students taught the gradeschoolers how to pot plants and gave them books to read about gardening.
Last week, the gradeschoolers assembled rock characters, then wrote a story about their characters with gel pens and magic markers and notebooks given to them by the graduate students.
Donovan said money for the materials was provided through a grant given to ENMU.
At an earlier session, the children were given cameras so they could have photographs taken of themselves reading.
“It’s made them aware of themes that they could lock in on,” said Sharon Tinsley, Nebraska’s grandmother. “They offered Nebraska the opportunity to participate and we’re really into reading at our house. Besides offering an array of subjects, it has provided discipline. She wants to read now.”