teacher and student at chalkboardLow achievement in reading is a problem whose effects reach far beyond the classroom. More than $2 billion is spent every year on public school students who repeat a grade due to reading problems, data from the federal government shows.

What’s more, up to 40 percent of American children compromise their education because they don’t read well enough, quickly enough, or easily enough, according to a study from the Committee on Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children of the National Research Council.

The Saint Mary’s College Reading Recovery program is working to change that.

Last fall, the Kalmanovitz School of Education received a $1.4 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education to expand “Reading Recovery,” a teacher training and literacy intervention education program designed to help first graders learn to read and write. The college, which also received books from publishers for the program and funds from private foundations bringing the total added support for the initiative up to nearly $2 million, is the only institution in California to receive the award.

student at desk

“With all the various budget cuts to education and to teaching, this is indeed a bright light,” said Kalmanovitz Dean Phyllis Metcalf-Turner. “It only reaffirms what we believe is critical for students’ academic success and achievement in school.”

The College has had the program for the past two decades, but the goal between 2010 and 2015 is to significantly boost teacher training and service to students and train 50 teachers a year, said program director Adria Klein.

Klein said a first grader’s participation is determined by the results of a six-part test that is given to those whose skills are in the lowest 20 percent of the class and a recommendation from the teacher.

“Early intervention is before some habits have formed and it’s before they have experienced failure so we can keep them interested in school and help them succeed as readers and writers,’’ Klein said.

The average success rate of the program hovers around 70 percent, Klein said. “But we consider all children successful because even if they need further service we can have a better understanding of their specific needs.”

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