Four elementary school children, playing the role of detectives, look closely at a flash card of an oak tree with a face attached to the end of each branch. Their task is to use the elements of the image to determine that the phrase depicted by the card is “family tree.”
The exercise is a small part of Word Detectives, a month-long reading camp for children run by faculty and graduate students in Northeastern’s Speech-Language and Hearing Center. The program is helping more than 20 elementary school children from Greater Boston improve their literacy skills with intensive phonics lessons and reading workshops this summer.
“There’s a great need in the Boston area for these kinds of services,” Sarah Young-Hong, the clinic director of speech and language services at the Speech-Language and Hearing Center, says during a break in the program on a recent Thursday afternoon.
The children in the program learn to read by breaking down words one sound at a time by using two different techniques—the RAVE-O reading intervention and Wilson Reading Training.
Rave-O helps students dissect words to better understand their meanings and grammatical functions, says Ellyssa Brand, who co-directs the reading camp. Wilson Reading Training, she says, teaches children how to structure sentences and attack words they don’t know.
“The program targets the needs of participants by providing the students a well-rounded program that seeks to increase their reading abilities,” says Young-Hong, who helped to bring Word Detectives to Northeastern last year.
Brand says the teachers try to increase the students’ intrinsic motivation to read and explore the English language on their own.
“Kids will hopefully come out of the program more confident to attack challenges and engage in their own learning,” she says.