Kids, NLU Grad Students Benefit from Summer Reading Program M.Ed. students get real-world experience as Reading Specialists, reading teachers

You might have seen children, some as young as first grade,  showing up at some National Louis University campuses this summer. They’re on an important mission; improving their reading skills while giving NLU graduate students valuable practice in teaching literacy.

Several Reading candidates, like Yuri Zepeda,  are tapping into everything they’ve learned in their master’s program so far to help these K-12 students improve their reading and writing. Because she’s earning the M. Ed. in Reading degree and getting this valuable real-world experience, Zepeda’s school district has promoted her from ELL teacher to Reading Specialist.

“The Summer Reading Program has been amazing for me,” Zepeda said. “It has opened up a whole new world of literacy and a new perspective about how to teach reading and incorporate it into a classroom.”

At the same time the grad students are getting experience as Reading Specialists and reading teachers, the youngsters, like Patti Adams’ 10- and 13-year-old daughters, are getting one-on-one literacy tutoring that will not only help them avoid the summer slide but strengthen their literacy skills overall.

Putting theory into practice

NLU’s Summer Reading Program gives the graduate students, who already have classroom teaching experience, the opportunity to put the theoretical knowledge they’ve learned in their classes into practice to help the youngsters sitting beside them. The graduate students are pursuing an M.Ed. in Reading that includes either a Reading Specialist or Reading Teacher endorsement.

“The master’s candidates take all the learning they’ve accumulated over two years of courses in this program to plan instruction and coaching for their K-12 students,” said Mary Hoch, Ed.D., assistant professor of reading and language, who directs the program.

Graduate students who participate in the Summer Reading Program meet their young students around April or May, and assess their reading skills with diagnostic testing. They then spend the rest of their spring course planning an individualized reading program for each of their two students, at their developmental level, to meet their needs.

“That’s why the parents are fighting to get their kids in,” Hoch quipped.

Over the course of the Summer Reading Program, the grad students can try different strategies in literacy intervention to help their charges improve in reading skills.

“In their regular classes during the school year, they’re bound by the curriculum, but here, they can say, ‘I’m going to try this strategy my professor suggested,'” Hoch explained.

Working with students

Zepeda said the practice of working one-on-one with her students, while having access to Hoch’s help and guidance, has made her much more comfortable and confident in teaching literacy.

“I can ask her (Hoch), ‘Can you model this for me, or do you have any strategies for me to use?'” Zepeda said. “That’s very, very helpful. There’s a ton of strategies we learn. If we haven’t seen it done, she’s happy to model it for us, with her role-playing the teacher, and we play the students.”

After grad students like Zepeda assess their students with the Basic Reading Inventory and design lessons for them, they look at the young readers’ miscues. Then they hone into those miscues to see why the young readers made the errors, and work on developing their reading skills.

“I told my principal, ‘this summer program has definitely prepared me to be a Reading Specialist,” Zepeda said. “It’s real-world experience.”

On-site reading clinic a bonus

Illinois law requires M.Ed. candidates to work with students under supervision in order to earn a master’s degree in Reading with a Reading Specialist or reading teacher endorsement, and the Summer Reading Program fulfills that requirement.

“Not every university has these on-site reading clinics for children,” Hoch said. “It’s awesome they (grad students) can participate in an on-site clinic. It’s a strong selling point for NLU’s program.”

M.Ed. candidates, who are already licensed teachers, are broadening the band of their initial licensure. The Summer Reading Program has two sessions, one at 8:30 am and one at 10 am, so each graduate student gets to work with two children one-on-one. Each child is in a different age group.

Sessions last an hour, Mondays through Thursdays, for a total of 20 days during the summer.  Parents pay a $350 fee for each child, plus a $150 attendance deposit. If the children fail to attend, parents forfeit that deposit, and this method usually ensures that children show up to reap the program’s benefits.

Mom happy with kids’ progress

That hasn’t been a problem for Patti Adams, who brought her two daughters every day last year, and has done so this year as well.

“I really like the progress they’ve made, because it’s one-on-one time with the teachers,”  said Adams, of Naperville. “The girls get more out of the hour one-on-one than in the all-day school they went to.”

The younger girl researched horses and her teacher filmed her talking about them for a video, while the older girl is doing a research paper on PowerPoint.  Both skills will help them when they return to school for the fall semester.

“Honestly, I wish it lasted longer,” Adams said.

“The teachers are great at being available and answering questions, and Mary (Hoch) is awesome–very open and easily accessible for questions, which was helpful because, during the first year, there was so much going on with the kids,” she said.

She even offered a tip for other parents.

“There are only so many teachers available, so you have to get in early,” she counseled.

The Summer Reading Program has concluded for 2018, but parents can check this link around November for information on 2019 programs.

Learn more about NLU’s M.Ed. in Reading program

Learn about all of NLU’s graduate programs in Education