DENTON (UNT), Texas — For most of his time in elementary school, Shannon Freeman's 9-year-old son, Porter, has struggled with reading. He currently reads below his level in his fourth-grade class. Freeman, an Aubrey resident, has noticed Porter looking at only the first letter of a word before guessing what the word is, and not completely reading through lists of instructions, causing him to make mistakes.
"He was tested during pre-K and kindergarten and characterized as a slow learner," Freeman said.
She was excited to learn about an after-school reading and language clinic that the University of North Texas Speech and Hearing Center started this past January, offering individual help to children in the second- to seventh-grade age range who have dyslexia or are challenged in another way by reading and language related delays. The clinic fees are based on a reduced clinic fee scale and additional sliding fee guidelines.
Ten children ages 8 to 13 have been enrolled this past semester in the clinic, which is directed by Theresa Kouri, clinical director for speech-language pathology in the Speech and Hearing Clinic and a senior lecturer in UNT's Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. Kouri will now offer a similar nine-week summer reading clinic that will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., beginning June 13 (Tuesday). To register, contact Kouri at 940-369-7339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freeman said Porter looks forward to coming to the clinic every Tuesday and Thursday.
"He talks all week long about what he did and learned, and even with the concentration on reading, his spelling has improved," Freeman said.
Each child is assigned to a UNT student majoring in speech-language pathology for one-on-one clinical instruction. During the first hour of the clinic, the students meet with their UNT student clinicians. They spend the second hour in large and small group activities with other children attending the clinic.
Kouri said that by having children with different reading levels in the same group activities — which have included reading play scripts; reading, writing and preparing recipes; and an Easter egg word hunt — the UNT student clinicians "can instill confidence and motivation by demonstrating to the children that they are all good readers at their own level."
"Our big goal is to get to the bottom of why each child is struggling with reading, and then to provide effective reading lessons that not only improve reading abilities, but, most importantly, build each child's confidence and love for reading," she said.
Anna Sekhon, a first-year master's student in speech-language pathology, said the 8-year-old girl she has worked with during the spring semester "was very scared and didn't offer up many words" when she started the clinic, because she didn't want to make mistakes.
"Now she's reading billboards out loud when she's in the car with her parents, and she gladly participates in the group activities," Sekhon said. "Until you build up children's confidence and convince them that they are able to participate — even if it means they will mess up and be corrected and learn from their mistakes — they won't make measurable progress."
Stacy Rollins started home schooling her 12-year-old son when he was in third grade, after his grades began dropping as teachers started preparing students for state-mandated standardized testing. She also home-schooled her 8-year-old daughter this school year.
To try to improve her son’s reading skills, Rollins hired a tutor specializing in dyslexia, but the tutor came only 30 minutes a week and was not very helpful. Her daughter received only 30 minutes to one hour of reading instruction in her public school, and was missing other classes to meet with the instructor, Rollins said.
The UNT reading clinic has been well worth the drive from her home in northwest Fort Worth not just for the one-on-one instruction, but for the group interaction, Rollins said. She's planning to enroll her children in the summer program.
"This is the first time I have found help for both of them that was affordable. The clinic has been a lifesaver for us," she said. "With the peer situation, my children are seeing that they're not alone in their struggles, and all of the kids encourage each other to do better. It makes for a low-stress environment."