When Chase Soucy enrolled in Sacred Heart’s Book Ends University Reading Clinic program, he was a first-grader who was not just reluctant to read out loud, but reluctant to read at all. He lacked confidence, his mother Karen Soucy remembers, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t comprehend even the shortest paragraph or passage.
“I can’t begin to describe how much he struggled and how unhappy we all were,” said Soucy of Trumbull. “But today, thanks to Book Ends, he’s a third-grader reading at a seventh-grade level and full of self-confidence. He loves reading so much now that he keeps a notepad to write down the names of possible suspects in the A-Z Mystery series he’s reading. He’s a different kid.”
Developed in 2008 by Sacred Heart Connecticut Literacy Specialist Program (CLSP) Director Karen Waters, “Book Ends” is a site-based university reading clinic, where struggling readers in first through fourth grades participate in a nurturing and interactive environment that empowers them to advance their reading achievement through multimodal and research-based practices in literacy. Trained to administer multiple assessments, certified teachers, who are pursuing advanced literacy through their enrollment in SHU’s Connecticut Literacy Specialist Program (CLSP), provide one-on-one instruction that considers students’ interests and strengths, while targeting the critical components of foundational, comprehension, language, writing, speaking and listening skills.
Following a comprehensive evaluation, a customized intervention plan is developed to meet the needs of each child. Parents have an opportunity to meet and talk with their child’s tutor following each of the 12 weekly tutoring sessions. Children receive take-home materials to practice newly acquired skills at home. It’s a win-win for both children and Sacred Heart University: struggling readers have an opportunity to increase their reading achievement, while teacher candidates obtain the requisite clinical experience and fulfill the University’s mission to provide outreach to the community.
“Book Ends students receive the one-on-one tutoring they need to become effective readers, and our teachers acquire the necessary knowledge and skills as they develop expertise in the field. They share their professional knowledge with colleagues through classroom demonstrations and workshops in their own school districts,” said Waters. “Book Ends provides instruction that mirrors the literacy instruction that the children receive during the school day. They are already familiar with the routines and the strategies. At Book Ends, that instruction is just a bit more intense, as well as more personalized, because students are partnered with a teacher who develops a customized intervention plan to accommodate the child’s strengths, weaknesses and interests.”
Classes meet one afternoon a week for 90 minutes at the Sacred Heart University Reading Clinic at 7 Cambridge Drive, Trumbull. Sessions typically run from 4-5:30. Following the tutoring session, reading candidates participate in a clinical seminar to discuss their tutoring activities with one another and with Waters, who provides additional readings so that they have opportunities to think critically about their professional practices.
Known for both its quality instruction and nurturing environment, the program is intentionally kept small – roughly 9 to 12 students are enrolled during each tutoring cycle to ensure each child receives focused attention.
“Most of the students come in to the program frustrated, not reading at grade level and not motivated to read, but we work hard to change that,” Waters said. “We don’t provide magic cures, but we do provide tools and strategies that students can use to become successful, lifelong readers and – equally important – will instill within them the joy that comes from reading a book from beginning to end.
A home-school connection is established between the staff at Book Ends and the parent community, Waters added. Parents receive a progress report midway through the program and a comprehensive report at the end, detailing their child’s reading achievement. Additionally, parents are encouraged to attend free workshops to learn “kid-friendly” activities designed to help them work with their children at home. An online component allows students to chart the books they read.
“The program allows students choice: choice in the snacks they want to have while they are learning and in the books that they are interested in reading. We’re a fun, nurturing place! We love kids, and everything we do is intended to make them more successful and happy,” Waters concluded.
No special referral is needed for the program. Parents can call 203-371-7808 for the next start date or more information. The fee for the program is $240, with enrollment on a first-come, first served basis. Students receiving free or reduced-price lunch can attend at no charge.