Hooked on Learning

The Literacy Center, a growing program located in the low-key Vandenberg Hall Annex, is helping graduates improve their teaching skills while assisting grade school students benefiting from the extra help.

The center is made up of SUNY New Paltz graduate students from the Scho Home Staging Revealed ol of Education. These graduate students act as tutors to help students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Literacy Center, which began in 1975, has over 200 graduate students enrolled in the program in some form and at least 80 currently assigned to tutor a student.

Andrea M. Noel, coordinator of Programs in Literacy, said the program “is currently four to five times as big as it was in the late 1970s.”

Younger participants in the program are mainly taught the basics of reading and writing, while older participants go over more analytical skills of reading.  Every graduate student who takes the program is responsible for tutoring one student assigned to them.  Every program member receives their own student to tutor said Professor Sam Slotnick, coordinator of the Literacy Center.

The program encompasses schools from the surrounding areas of New Paltz, said Noel. Students who have attended schools in New Paltz, Highland, Wallkill, Rondout Valley, Kingston and Poughkeepsie have participated in the Literacy Center program.  The program also accepts students who have been homeschooled.

Slotnick said the program was working on a way to measure its effectiveness with helping children learn. He said that the parents of the children who were enrolled in the program would sometimes give him anecdotes about their children’s literacy improvement and their desire to read.

“All I get are little tidbits from parents,” he said.  He quoted one parent that said: “‘I caught my kid under the covers reading with a flashlight.  I couldn’t believe it.’”

Slotnick said that the one-on-one tutoring sessions are what really help the students.

“I’d say that’s the main part: undivided attention for more than an hour,” said Slotnick.

According to Slotnick, students who attend the program do not necessarily have any form of learning disability.  A child who has missed a crucial step in a teacher’s lesson can easily fall behind, the special attention that the program gives to the individual can fix that.  Missing this step can be very easy, he said; a child can miss an important step in the learning process from occurrences such as missing a day from school due to illness or leaving class for a bathroom break.

The Literacy Center is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, an organization that recognizes valid teaching certification programs at U.S. colleges. SUNY New Paltz is one out of 45 New York colleges to be recognized by the organization, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the Literacy Center website, spring and summer tuition costs for the program are $75 for one child and $50 for an additional child from the same family.

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