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Posted May 30, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Reading recovery: Program helps boost one of three 'Rs'

Blake Sandy reads
Blake Sandy, 7, a first-grader at Orchard View Elementary School, reads and sounds out a passage while Reida Krieger, a reading recovery teacher, observes. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Krieger observes and instructs Blake
Krieger, a reading recovery teacher, observes and instructs Blake on his reading skills. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

The day was just coming to an end at Orchard View Elementary School in Frederick County on a recent afternoon, but it was only the beginning for first-grader Blake Sandy, who has a long journey ahead of him on the pathway of reading.

His hands folded in front of him as he leaned over a table, he concentrated on reading aloud the book in front of him. The plot told him the story of Little Chimp and his mother, who was hungry and needed Little Chimp's help to find some food to eat. After reading the book, he grabbed a pencil to write a sentence about the plot.

"Hun -- gry," he said aloud with reading recovery teacher Reida Krieger, as they sounded out the word to the beat of her hands clapping the syllables. Dissecting words help him and other students figure out the spelling of the word, useful for reading and for writing.

"That's what reading recovery is all about," Krieger said. "Reading recovery is an early intervention and we work with just first-graders one-on-one, one teacher and one student, and it's for those who are struggling with reading and writing and need an extra boost."

A leg up was all Blake needed to climb up to the reading level his class has reached over the last nine months. Like Little Chimp, Blake has reached a new height of success.

When he began the reading recovery program in February, he was on a level 8 out of 20, Krieger said. Now, he reads on level 19.

Krieger, who has been teaching reading recovery for 34 years, recently earned the acknowledgment of Apple Valley Reading Council Reading Teacher of the Year.

"I was very excited. I've taught reading for a very long time," she said. "It's quite an honor for the teachers in your school to nominate you for something like that."

One of two reading recovery teachers in the school, Krieger works with each pupil in the program for 30 minutes a day, scoring them on goals such as reading comprehension and the pronunciation of words.

"It's based on the children and what they need," she said. "We feel that they're very successful if they reach a 16 at the end of the year."

Reading recovery is a part of every elementary school in Frederick County, she said, and the goal is to help children not only become better readers but also enjoy reading.

"We believe strongly in a lot of oral language [with parents]," Krieger said. "Being read to before they start school also helps ... because some children just have more trouble and no one really knows why and they just need more help."

"I don't think people realize how complex reading is," she said.

Children have to work at reading and practice often.

"They need their parents to be encouraging and have a huge interest in the books they're reading," Krieger said.

It isn't just about helping children learn to read early, however.

"We've got to turn students on to reading," she said. "We want a lifetime reader."

Reading for life is a phrase that book enthusiasts all around the area not only use to promote the idea of reading, but also hope children will grow to appreciate themselves. At a time when children are distracted perhaps more than ever by computer games, TV and too many after-school activities, reading is a passion Krieger believes parents should promote in their children.

Krieger said a major problem for teachers and parents is keeping children interested in reading.

"Some of those students, they don't want to read," she said. "We have good readers who don't like to read, either."

Though huge literary successes like the "Harry Potter" series and the "Twilight" series have encouraged tentative readers to become more interested in the written word, Krieger believes these statistics are only circumstantial.

"I think it influences them to read those books," she said, but maybe not enough to make them seek out other books or authors, as well. The key is more in helping children find subjects that will interest them. If parents can get them hooked on something they really love, she believes children will read more often.

Tori Brumback, children's librarian and chairwoman of the summer reading program at Strasburg Community Library, recommends choosing books that focus on the child's interests, such as sports, farming or gymnastics.

"One of the best things parents can do is read with their children," said Brumback. Spending just 15 to 30 minutes a night reading with children can help significantly in fostering an interest in reading as well as improving their reading skills, she said.

"The more parents show that reading is fun, it's going to be contagious for kids, too," she said.

They could play reading games, she said, such as using Scrabble pieces to form words, or play word games with the text on cereal boxes.

"It's easier to let children just go watch TV or play video games," she said. It takes work to learn to read and it takes parents to help them, she said. She suggests parents use TV time and computer time as reading opportunities as well, reading along with children what appears on the screen.

The reading should not be too difficult for children, or they might lose interest in reading.

"That's really the whole purpose of reading," Krieger said -- to comprehend what you're reading.

"I think if we can keep kids reading on their level -- books they can read and comprehend -- I think that opens the door for them to enjoy reading," she said. As they grow, they might tend to stick with a series or author they enjoy, even if the reading level has become too easy for them, but Krieger is not bothered by the prospect.

"I think that they will look for harder books," she said.

Brumback suggests the "five finger rule."

Choose a book from a library or bookstore and allow the child to read the first page. For every word he or she does not know, hold up a finger. If the child reaches five fingers, the book is too difficult; two to three fingers, it's just right, and no fingers, it's too easy.

Writing is another way to help children become better, more impassioned readers and is part of the reading recovery process at Orchard View Elementary.

"If they know it in reading, they know it in writing," Krieger said.

"Encourage them to write a story," Brumback said. "It's definitely important for literacy to be able to write a story."

Reading and writing are integral to one another, she said. "The better one reads, the better they can write."

The most important factor in enjoying reading is reading what you love.

"Go with the interest," Brumback said. "Whatever they're interested in, there are books out there."

For information about summer reading programs, visit or call your local library. Some already in progress, the programs extend into August and offer reading contests with prizes, presenters and activities.

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