Towson University’s Reading Clinic is helping Latino elementary school pupils and their Spanish-speaking parents in Baltimore’s Armistead Gardens neighborhood.
It’s a new clientele for the campus-based clinic, which each summer deploys graduate students to a Baltimore City public school for a free, month-long program. Community outreach enables the TU students—all classroom teachers pursuing a Master in Education degree—to gain experience as reading specialists by helping elementary school pupils hone their reading skills.
The clinic pairs each of the 25 grad students with a pupil who has been identified by his or her teacher as needing reading assistance. The TU students administer tests to ascertain reading levels, then develop a specialized program for each child. Also included are mandatory workshops where the participants’ parents learn how to best support their children‘s education.
This summer’s program presented some new challenges, says Gilda Martinez-Alba, associate professor of educational technology and literacy and Reading Clinic director.
“Nearly half of the children at Armistead Gardens Elementary are Latino,” Martinez-Alba explains. “They typically speak both Spanish and English, but their parents speak only Spanish.”
Armistead Gardens has seen more than its share of physical and demographic change since the 1940s, when it was home to war-industry workers. The newest residents—hardworking families with roots in Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic—now comprise a substantial share of the population.
Because parental involvement is crucial to the program’s success, Martinez-Alba says the clinic hired a Spanish-speaking high-school student to translate during the workshops. “The translator is very good,” she adds. “And the parents are eager to learn how they can help their sons and daughters succeed in school.”
Martinez-Alba says this Summer Reading Clinic has garnered praise from all concerned. “Our graduate students like working in the community, the children are making progress, and their teachers and parents are pleased,” she says.
“When you’re working with people in their own neighborhoods, they’re more invested and responsive.”