'Failure is Not an Option' but Chances Look Bleak

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By Molly Cassidy
Meridian News staff writer

When elementary school days playing in the sandbox at recess looked fun for others,
Central Elementary alumnus Danny Folino, 20, recalls struggling to read and his
appreciation for helpful programs.

“When I was little, I had trouble reading, but teachers aren’t going to tell you you’re behind everybody else. But I had a feeling because I was good at everything else, but I was slower at reading,” Folino said.

Folino is not the only Okemos Public School District student to have struggled with reading. The Okemos Board of Education reviewed surprising data gathered through its programs, “Failure is Not an Option,” and “Response to Intervention” on Monday, Jan. 24, at a school board meeting.

K-5 children who fall behind with grade-level reading have around a 0 to 16 percent chance of catching up at the end of fifth-grade, according to the program’s presentation at Okemos Public Montessori at Central, formerly Central Elementary.

The district’s programs are designed to help students who need extra support and intervention with reading comprehension, according to Sue Hallman, principal of OPMC, who presented the information.

“I think that if a child comes to school struggling to read and there are no interventions to work with the child; they probably will stay behind,” said Patricia Edwards, president of the International Reading Association. “Children who have not had that connection with books are the kids often time who struggle.”

Edwards said she has traveled the world researching how children are taught to read and learn.

Co-director of The Literacy Achievement Research Center at Michigan State University, Professor of Teacher Education Nell Duke, said it is essential to focus on developing skills that enable reading comprehension because children develop at different rates.

Whether or not a lack of reading comprehension continues through college, Nancy Bunge, a professor of American Studies at MSU, recognizes her students may not be from just the Okemos School District, but they can understand very difficult
books.

“I don’t think I teach such challenging books in all my classes, but I don’t teach easy books either. I think my students understand the difficult books I have them read remarkably well,” Bunge said.

An author herself, Bunge said she has her students read books by authors such as Immanuel Kant, Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Hume.

“What has surprised me the most is that students seem to like grappling with books that are challenging; I get the impression that they think they’ve learned something real,” Bunge said.

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