The Need to Read
How can you tell if a child will do well in school?
One of the most important indicators of student success is whether they can read at a proficient level by the end of third grade. Only 33 percent of Wyoming third graders are proficient in reading, according to 2010 PAWS testing data, while the national number is only 31 percent.
These numbers need to improve, and answering the call is the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic. Opening in 2013, its mission will be to serve as the epicenter of literacy expertise in the state—to improve the quality of literacy learning, literacy instruction, and literacy leadership for all Wyoming children birth through high school.
Designed by The Design Studio of Cheyenne, the center will be located on the first floor of the UW College of Education Annex. It will contain a family literacy area, six diagnostic and tutorial rooms connected to provide digital video and audio, two large seminar spaces with state-of-the-art distance technology, graduate research space, and offices for faculty and staff.
Through partnerships with public and private schools and community-based organizations, center staff will help with clinics and professional development both on campus and across the state using state-of-the-art distance technologies. It will also sponsor applied research projects.
The literacy initiative is reaching its stride, not least of all with significant fundraising support. The College of Education received lead gifts for facility renovation from Mickey and Jeanne Klein, the Joe and Arlene Watt Foundation, Thea Stidum, and Don and Betty Walters. Ongoing support for center activities—such as graduate student support and travel funds for faculty and families served—comes from the John P. Ellbogen Foundation.
The initiative is also receiving significant support from the State. First Lady Carol Mead has lent a hand in getting the word out, and gifts were doubled by state matching funds. In addition, the State supports two Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chairs in Literacy Education, which are occupied by Victoria Gillis and George Kamberelis. These endowed chairs will serve as co-directors of the center. Gillis previously taught middle and high school science for 20 years and directed a literacy center in South Carolina. Kamberelis was a professor at SUNY Albany before coming to UW, bringing with him a deep expertise in early and family literacy.
This university center presents a new paradigm for literacy research and outreach. There are other literacy centers across the nation, but they are either grant-funded research-only university organizations or clinic-only centers associated strictly with schools without the professional development component.
Kay Persichitte, Dean of the UW College of Education, comments, “We are so grateful that this public-private partnership will allow our faculty to connect directly with Wyoming children and teachers through their service efforts, outreach, and research in ways that have been impossible given constraints of distance and physical presence. ‘Reading to Learn and Learning to Read’ continues to ground our literacy education efforts.”
The UW Literacy Research Center and Clinic brings it all together—so kids can thrive.