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Summer Reading Clinic

Roosevelt University’s Summer Reading Clinic marks 25 years in promoting youth literacy

Posted: 06/14/2012

Roosevelt University’s Summer Reading Clinic welcomes its 25th anniversary class that is comprised of 35 area youths who will spend five weeks from June 4 through July 5 experiencing the joy of reading, writing and acting out stories.

Started in 1987 in a one-room classroom at the former Forest View High School in Arlington Heights, the reading clinic today has become a small summer school taking up an entire wing at the University’s Schaumburg Campus and a literacy and learning model for several schools in the Chicago area.

During the clinic, held Monday-Thursday mornings, youths ages 5 through 12, who hail largely from the Northwest suburbs, take part in a non-traditional, balanced-literacy-styled program using small-group instruction methods as well as stories and story-telling to improve reading comprehension, writing and verbal skills.

“This is a program that builds self-esteem,” said Schaumburg resident Dawn Vivirito, who currently has two boys, including one with autism, enrolled in the program. Vivirito began sending her children, including a 15-year-old daughter now taking advanced placement courses at Schaumburg High School, to the Summer Reading Clinic in 2002.

“My kids have enjoyed going to the clinic. I think it’s because they sense that the people who are involved really want to be with them and really want to interact with them,” she said.

The Summer Reading Clinic is led by its founder, Margaret Policastro, professor of education and director of language and literacy at Roosevelt University.

“From the beginning, the goal was to set up a best-practice school where kids could see what joyful reading and learning are all about,” said Policastro, whose clinic instruction is led by her College of Education students who, themselves, are being trained as reading specialists.

Over the last quarter century, approximately 900 youths and 200 Roosevelt students have participated in the unique small-group-instruction clinic that has had a wide-ranging impact throughout the region on literacy and learning.

Test results taken before and after the clinic show that youths’ reading levels rise, on average, one grade level, according to Policastro. Meanwhile, Roosevelt students who work with youth in the clinic have gone on to become reading specialists in classrooms and schools throughout the Northwest suburbs and beyond.

“These teachers are taking back the best of the best to their classrooms,” said Policastro, who has trained the lion’s share of reading specialists now working at schools throughout the Northwest suburbs. “It’s one of the ways Roosevelt University and the clinic have had an impact.”

Additionally, the Summer Reading Clinic has become a model for other new non-traditional literacy and learning programs being tried throughout the region including: an initiative funded by the Illinois Board of Higher Education at Dumas Technology Academy and Enrico Fermi Elementary School, which are both located in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, as well as non-traditional, team programs involving principals, teachers, parents and students in creating and enhancing reading environments at St. Luke Elementary School in River Forest and Our Lady of the Wayside School in Arlington Heights.

“With this model, we are creating balanced literacy schools that have rich reading environments including guided reading libraries, read-out-loud libraries and professional development libraries,” said Policastro.

“It is a model that is proving to work in many different schools and it is all based on the Summer Reading Clinic and the success it has had over many years in helping young people improve their reading skills,” she said.