April 12, 2013
13-122

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

Rising Sixth Graders, Readers Graduate from VSU’s Sullivan Literacy Center

Research shows that children who read well in the early grades are far more successful in later years and those who fall behind often stay behind when it comes to academic achievement. Reading opens the door to learning about math, history, science, literature, geography, and much more. Thus, young, capable readers can succeed in these subjects, take advantage of other opportunities (such as reading for pleasure), and develop confidence in their own abilities. On the other hand, those students who cannot read well are much more likely to drop out of school and be limited to low-paying jobs throughout their lives. Reading is undeniably critical to success in today's society. — U.S. Department of Education.

VALDOSTA — Seven new readers graduated from Valdosta State University’s Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center Wednesday afternoon. Rising sixth graders Kori Bridges, Daiejah Davis, Sania Glee, Matthew Hall, Kessiny Neal, Ja’Quez White, and Kyla Williams grinned from ear to ear as they received a Certificate of Achievement and the encouragement to never stop reading.

“We read to learn,” said Dr. Gina Doepker, center director and an associate professor in the Department of Early Childhood and Special Education. “We read to laugh. We also read to live. I hope that you walk away from the Sullivan Literacy Center with a passion for reading.”

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center’s mission is to be an integrated system of care for the children and families of Valdosta and surrounding areas with a focus on building children’s literacy skills, motivation, and confidence. The center now serves children in kindergarten through fifth grade, but programs are being developed for prekindergarten, middle school, and high school students, said Doepker.

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center offers several programs designed to help children in the elementary grades build literacy skills, gain confidence, and be more motivated to want to read for both pleasure and study:

• Literacy Education Assessment Program (LEAP): This is a literacy tutoring program that involves VSU pre-service teachers assessing the community children’s current literacy skills, developing specific literacy goals, providing one-on-one research-based literacy instruction and intervention, and monitoring the children’s literacy development progress. Students in LITR 4120: Literacy Assessment and Applications work with the children, gaining experience in assessing and planning appropriate literacy remediation. 

• Blazing Through Books Program: This feeder program for LEAP pairs VSU athletes and students with community children in one-on-one and small group literacy skill-building activities, such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Pairs of students from LITR 3110: Emergent Literacy read a book to the children as a group and then lead them through a fun, but educational, lesson related to the story. The purpose of this program is to get the children excited about reading, work on basic literacy skills, and expose the children to different genres.  

• Multidisciplinary Child Advocacy Team (M-CAT): Through this program, any and all departments at VSU, as well as interested community organizations, provide identified services for the community children and families, such as comprehensive assessments, health screenings, family support and therapy, content area tutoring, shadowing opportunities, adult literacy, and much more.

• Dear Blazer Buddy: This is a pen pal program that pairs community children with VSU athletes and students. It is designed to get the children involved in a reading and writing activity that is fun and motivating.

• Blazer Books Television Series: This is a developing program that gives all VSU faculty, staff, and students, as well as area public schools, organizations, and others the opportunity to read and/or recommend their favorite childhood book on camera.

• Reading Enrichment Club (REC) Center: This group was formed for those children who exceed their grade-level reading proficiencies but still want to participate in the program. It focuses on helping them extend their literacy competencies by providing more challenging reading and writing experiences. Participants have worked their way through the Blazing Through Books Program and the Literacy Education Assessment Program (LEAP).

VSU has had some sort of literacy outreach initiative since 1989.

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center is located on the first floor of the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education. The fall program will begin Sept. 9.

According to the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, approximately 10 million children in the United States have difficulty reading. Of these children, 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school and only two percent complete a four-year college degree.

Contact Dr. Gina Doepker at (229) 333-5625 or gmdoepker@valdosta.edu for more information.