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In Nome, reading program helps kids improve literacy

By Heather Hintze 6:28 PM October 8, 2014

It doesn’t take much time spent with Jeff Collins to see he has a real passion for teaching students and helping them improve their reading skills.

“For beginning readers, fluency and comprehension are the biggest obstacles they have,” said Collins, one of Nome Elementary School’s Title I teachers.

After his students read a story, they then fill out worksheets. This, says Collins, helps build fluency and comprehension.

Collins is also part of Nome’s Read Right Reading Intervention Program. He works with children who are reading below their grade level to help them catch up to the rest of their classmates.

“I really got into teaching to see that growth,” Collins said. “I think, with this group, I see that growth constantly. And I love those little random moments of success they see and how excited they get with education.”

That progress didn’t happen all at once, says Collins, who moved to Nome when he was fresh out of college eight years ago. During his first year at Nome Elementary School, he taught fifth grade. Collins said 13 out of his 28 students were reading at a kindergarten level.

Now, he says, teaching kids to read in a smaller group with specialized attention is paying off.

“With our fourth grade, I service three kids,” Collins said, adding that another teacher, Bethany Olson, has three students also. “There’s another group of four, so we have a total of 10 kids for fourth grade, which is considerably lower.”

Olson moved to Nome from Washington. This is only her second year at Nome Elementary, but she can already see the progress her students are making.

“That’s what I live for,” said Olson. “It’s amazing when they start reading and reading fluently, or they see a word they maybe struggled with in the past and they get it right that time, it’s amazing.”

The teachers use the Reading Mastery program, a scripted format that tells them exactly what to say. Collins says that method makes it easier for students to transition to different classes.

“The students, regardless of where they go, are getting the same instruction from each instructor,” Collins said. “It allows them less adjustment time, so when they go to a new teacher, they’re able to continue right along where they left off.”

There aren’t always a lot of resources in small towns, so, for teachers, the Reading Intervention Program is crucial to make sure students don’t fall behind. Collins adds that it’s also nice if they can have fun at the same time.

“I guess that’s what it’s about is getting them to enjoy education,” Collins said.

He says the more the students enjoy the learning process, the more likely they’ll continue on to become better readers and better students.

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