News - Literacy Program Partners MAE-Reading Program with The Simple Room

Literacy Program Partners MAE-Reading Program with The Simple Room

Greenville College MAE Reading partnership with The Simple RoomJohnny hated reading. He wasn’t very good at it, and he avoided reading out loud at all costs. And the thought of reading a book for enjoyment never entered his mind.

But something happened last summer.

That something was Project 24, a six-week summer literacy program offered through The Simple Room, a facility in Greenville that offers after-school and summer activities for students in first through eighth grades.

Though Project 24 had been offered in previous summers, this year was different. Instead of being handled by volunteers, the reading instruction was provided by several Greenville College students who are pursuing a Master’s of Arts in Education degree, with an emphasis in reading (MAE-Reading). In addition to their classroom work, they are required to complete a literacy practicum program.

Project 24 ParticipantsMore than 100 students participated in The Simple Room’s summer program, which was held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from mid June through late July. Each day, the students would have segments on math, science, music, art and, of course, literacy. By the end of the six-week session, students had participated in 24 hours of reading instruction.

And that’s what made the difference for Johnny.

“This year, with the master’s level students teaching the literacy segment, we saw drastic improvements in our kids’ reading skills and enjoyment,” said Jesse Tyrrell, a Greenville College graduate who serves as executive director of The Simple Room. “These teachers have the experience and knowledge to assess the students’ abilities and teach them effectively. The kids who hated reading at the beginning of the summer are the ones who have made the most dramatic improvements.

Project 24 Participants“For kids like Johnny (not his real name), that can change his entire trajectory,” Tyrrell said. “It gives him more confidence in school, which carries over into his life generally. The master’s degree students are experienced teachers and they have multiple tactics and routes to reach the students; it isn’t a cookie-cutter approach. Instead, they assessed each student’s reading skills and developed a plan for them – often working with them on an individual basis.”

Partnering with Greenville College students is nothing new for The Simple Room. Since it was formed nearly 35 years ago as an interterm project in a “Creative Evangelism” class taught by Dr. Jim Reinhard, the facility has relied heavily on GC students to volunteer as staffers. In fact, Tyrrell said that 14 of the 17 members of The Simple Room’s leadership team are undergraduates at the college, and two others have completed their degrees but continue to help there.

Megan Tyler, who helped organize the reading partnership between the college and The Simple Room, said that the arrangement helps both parties.

“The Master of Arts in Education reading program requires students to do extensive literacy practicum work with both primary and secondary students in an educational setting,” Tyler said. “In the past, we have conducted the practicums in school districts about 50 miles away from Greenville, and the partnership with The Simple Room’s Project 24 allowed those practicums to be offered here in Greenville in order to serve our community.

 “The graduate students administer literacy assessments that allow us to identify each student’s interests and strengths. Lessons are then designed specifically to address their needs. Through this type of strategic teaching and with individual attention, children can grow exponentially in their reading development and motivation.”

Two graduates of the MAE reading program – Aly Kreider and Sarah Schannot – assisted Tyler with the administrative duties for the program.

A Project 24 student enjoying a bookBy all measures, the partnership between the master’s degree students and participants in The Simple Room’s Project 24 was a resounding success. Improvements in the reading skills of the young students have surprised their teachers as they’ve returned to school this fall.

Greenville College President, Dr. Ivan Filby, in a recent memo to the staff, highlighted the program as a “win” for the college. He quoted from an email received from a classroom teacher in the Greenville school district, praising the results shown by a participating student.

“Whoever his reading teachers were this summer, they did an amazing job,” a Project 24 parent said. “His reading and comprehension this school year is 100 percent better than it was last year. And he is doing it without the help of an aide. This is a huge step.”

As for Johnny, he’s now reading books – and enjoying it.

This story was published on September 23, 2015

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