Leader photo/ALY GIBSON Karina Daiga works closely with Thomas Boyd, a Patrick Hamilton Elementary School first-grader, Monday as part of the Reading Recovery program, which helps first grade students in the district reach proper reading and writing levels.

Archived Story

Reading Recovery program expands reach

Published 10:02pm Monday, September 17, 2012

Dowagiac Union elementary schools kicked off the academic year on the same page, supporting struggling first-grade students and setting up the first southwest Michigan training site for the Reading Recovery program.

With the next nearest Reading Recovery training sites in Kalamazoo and Portage, Patrick Hamilton Elementary School offers a place where Katrina Daiga, a teacher leader through the Reading Recovery program, can support first-grade students struggling with early reading and writing. The program, which began in Australia in the ‘70s, has grown to international lengths and boasts that 75 percent of students who complete the 12- to 20-week sessions reach their grade level. The district has been using the program for five years, Daiga said.

“I’ve been doing Reading Recovery for four years,” Daiga said after a 30-minute session with a student Monday. “This is the first year we have our own training site.”

Daiga and other district teachers who have either completed or are completing the teacher training, work with first-grade students whose reading levels are at the bottom 20 to 30 percent in the district. From there, daily 30-minute sessions focus on what the student already knows and then expounds on what else they can connect to those skills, improving their reading and writing. Daiga said the two go hand-in-hand.

“There’s a misconception that the more you read, the more you learn about how to read or write,” Daiga said. “This one-on-one opportunity allows us to use strategic reading and writing … it’s individualized for each student across the board. No one student advances the same way that another student does.”

Daiga, who has taught in the Dowagiac district for 12 years, is also teaching other district teachers about Reading Recovery through Oakland University in Rochester.

“We have nine teachers training in the district this year,” Daiga said. “This is the first year all the district elementary schools are fully implemented into Reading Recovery, so it really reaches a lot of students who are struggling.”

Daiga also said while the program brings students up to speed in a classroom of their peers, it also changes the way teachers approach lessons. Thanks to research on which the program is based, students learn to focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t.

“If you shift the focus from what they don’t know to what they do know, they accelerate themselves so much,” Daiga said.

Currently, eight to 10 students will benefit from Daiga’s support and the program by the end of the 30 to 50 hours of one-on-one sessions. The reward, said Daiga, is great.

“I saw a fourth-grader I had when he was in first grade, and he was telling me about what a great book he read,” Daiga said. “He was struggling when we met, and now he reads all the time and he loves it. To see the hard work pay off, that’s exciting.”

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