Booming UB summer program
helps more kids with reading
More than twice as many Western New York children are receiving instruction in reading this summer from UB as have in the past, thanks to a booming literacy-specialist program at the Graduate School of Education (GSE).
Enrollment in the literacy-specialist master’s degree program nearly doubled in the past two years, due to high demand for skilled literacy teachers. And the number of graduate students who enrolled as instructors in this year’s Summer Literacy Program, offered by the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction, also more than doubled to 44 graduate students, according to Elizabeth Tynan, clinical assistant professor of learning and instruction and UB’s literacy faculty liaison for the program.
With this increase in graduate students, the UB center was able to service far more schoolchildren.
“Whereas in past years, we typically would have 60 to 80 children in our programs, now we are serving 159 children in grades K-6 at the two sites,” explains Jennifer Schiller, site director for the Summer Literacy Program, who says the increase in students largely resulted from the tough economy and trends toward specialization among teachers.
To best utilize all the graduate student talent, GSE agreed to provide support for additional instructors and literacy coaches, experienced literacy specialists who mentor the graduate students throughout the summer as they work with the children.
That broadens the program’s positive impact on the community, says Mary H. Gresham, dean of the Graduate School of Education.
“Not only does the UB summer literacy program represent a clinically rich training experience for our graduate students, but it demonstrates the beauty of a UB/preschool-12 partnership and how it benefits children, parents and school districts,” says Gresham.
Such a large pool of students also allows the UB center to be able to document its success in a research project.
“By the end of the summer, we will be able to look at specific aspects of literacy, such as reading comprehension or word analysis, to measure how much each child has advanced,” says Mary McVee, center director and associate professor of education. “This year, we have a sufficiently large number of students to make that kind of documentation meaningful.”
Children attend the free, four-week program at their school for three half-days a week.
Schiller concedes that school may not be the first choice for how some children want to spend their summer vacations, but she says the program strives to make sessions purposeful and engaging, using both indoor and outdoor spaces, and integrating play activities into lessons as much as possible.
“The teachers develop literacy games, such as ‘sight word hopscotch,’ where each box contains not a number but a word, and each child has to call out the word they’re hopping on,” Schiller explains. “They’ll play water balloon games, where the child has to spell a word while passing the balloon to their partner. They do readers’ theater, where they put on plays. All the grad students are strong teachers and their goal is to make the children feel supported and in a fun place while growing as readers and writers.”
This year, the programs at Windermere and Maryvale culminated with an event that builds on the Barnes & Noble Passport to Summer Reading incentive.
On July 28, the final day of the four-week course, the children took their filled out “passports” listing the books they read over the summer and participated in literacy activities based on the locations in the books they read. At the final destination, the children and parents received their certificates showing they have completed the program.
The UB Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction also conducts literacy programs throughout the school year.