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Literacy Corner: A custom approach to literacy training

Master's candidate Sabrina Garrison works with a student in James B. Duke Library.

Furman Associate Professor of Education Katie Kelly wants to make a dent in the over 4,000 South Carolina students that may have to repeat the third grade next school year because they fall short of reading proficiency standards. As reported in The Post and Courier, the state slid to the 47th spot in the nation this year on the fourth-grade reading portion of NAEP, a standardized test also known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”

But Kelly is far more interested than simply raising test scores and stemming retention rates. Through Literacy Corner at Furman, she and her team are committed to addressing the “whole child” by working closely with students and their families in an approach that focuses on the individual learner.

“Through activities based on students’ interests and needs, I’m able to help children improve their reading and writing skills, attitudes and confidence.” – Julianna Hooks, master’s candidate.

Literacy Corner is part of the advanced practicum course taken by candidates pursuing a master’s in education with a concentration in literacy. Parents or guardians and children’s teachers submit applications to the program, and children are selected based on academic and financial need. Since it began in 2009, the program has reached nearly 200 local children who need additional support with reading.

This summer, equipped with 22 master’s candidates, Literacy Corner is serving 44 local children, the largest contingent yet for the program. Graduate candidates are paired with two children (ranging from ages 6-14) from the community. At Furman’s James B. Duke Library, each child is tutored one hour every day, four-days-a-week—that’s 176 hours of literacy training per week dispensed by Kelly’s crew.

Master’s students tailor a selection of materials and instructional activities around the children’s interests—an unscripted approach that increases motivation and engagement for each child, and one that allows Kelly’s candidates to fine-tune the program along the way.

Said Kelly, “It brings me so much joy and satisfaction to see my students in this practicum setting. It is amazing to see how they are able to make reading and writing fun as they apply their studies, assess the children and design engaging and meaningful instruction for them.”

Kelly says candidates often report that the Literacy Corner is the most transformative experience in their graduate program at Furman. “The energy in the Literacy Corner is contagious,” said Kelly. “It is rewarding to watch the kids on the library porch run up and greet their teachers with a big hug. For me, that says it all.”

For more information about Literacy Corner, contact Katie Kelly at 864-294-3345 and katie.kelly@furman.edu.

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