Schenectady County

Pair to launch free reading program

A free program starting this fall hopes to give students a different way to combat the reading disor

A free program starting this fall hopes to give students a different way to combat the reading disorder dyslexia.

A Different Way In Reading Center will be housed at Westminster Presbyterian Church located at the corner of Avenue A and Mason Street. The church is not running the program but is donating the space.

Special education instructors Kathy Jensen and Roberta Read have joined forces to create the nonprofit program to assist students with dyslexia, which is a common learning disability where students have difficulty remembering how letters or clusters of letters sound.

Jensen said this type of reading program is not widely used in the state. She saw a need because of the number of children who are bright students but are struggling with written language.

The organization is looking to start the program with about 25 to 50 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, although it will also accept adults. The teachers will provide instruction three days a week for an hour each session. The instruction would be in small groups of no more than five students or individualized instruction as needed.

The program is based on “Alphabetic Phonics.” Instructors teach the letters and combinations of letters that make sounds. Students learn the rules of words and how to break up the words into different sounds. Jensen said this helps kids see how language works.

“These are the kids who have a talent in taking things apart and putting them together,” she said.

Every child has a notebook where they record every single lesson, Jensen said. The program also stresses daily cumulative review because research has shown that some students with dyslexia need to be exposed to the sound 500 to 1,500 times before it is memorized.

Read said it is very methodical program. “You start at the very basic concept and you work up. With constant review, the kids learn these rules,” she said.

She said she had a student who was reading at a kindergarten or first-grade level and after two years with this program, she achieved a perfect score on her third-grade English Language Arts exam.

Jensen is a retired special education and adult education teacher for the Schenectady City School District. Read is also a former special education teacher with BOCES and does private tutoring. Both are registered as certified academic language therapists.

Jensen said the program can help raise self-esteem. “When we first see a child come to us, usually they have so much failure. They are so humiliated and they really believe they are stupid,” she said.

However, the students take to these concepts like a “fish to water” and realize that they are smart.

Linda Dalton, who homeschools her daughter, will serve as an assistant for the program. She became interested after Jensen tutored her daughter, who was shy because of her reading difficulty. Now, she has gained confidence.

Lisa Fine, a paraprofessional for the Schenectady City School District, will serve as the other assistant for the program. She said she found out about the program when she worked with a student who was struggling with reading.

The center received a $10,000 state grant through Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady.

Jensen said the group believes very strongly that the program needed to be free because of the importance of being able to read in society. “We feel it’s a human rights issue,” she said.

For more information about enrolling in the program or to volunteer, contact Jensen at 377-5387 or Roberta Read at 489-1938.

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