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Dog-eared pages and flying dogs
reading from train 1
Emily Garafola reads to classmates at Cliffords author station. Each Reading Recovery student shared their favorite journal entry from the school year. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

After a successful year in the classroom, first-graders in the Effingham County School System’s Reading Recovery program enjoyed an outdoor celebration of the reading progress they made.

Guyton Elementary School hosted a dog-themed celebration — a reading “paw”ty, as it was called — for this year’s 155 Reading Recovery students, their teachers and parents.

The festivities began with a “pup rally” and a disc dog show. The students, from all Effingham elementary schools, then divided into groups for different activities.

The children read books to therapy dogs and guests from the community. From a “Clifford the Big Red Dog”-themed house, the students shared journal entries they wrote during the school year.

“Kids love animals, and what a good way to celebrate all they’ve done this year,” said Effingham Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “This is a great program. Over the years, it has made such a difference with so many kids.”

Reading Recovery addresses first-graders identified as being in the bottom 20 percent of readers. Every student in Reading Recovery receives 1-on-1 instruction for 30 minutes each day to improve reading skills.

To graduate, students must improve to reading at or above their grade level. Reading Recovery is 20 weeks long, or fewer if students reach the goal sooner.

“The great thing is, we don’t teach a program — we teach a child,” said Regina Fox, a literacy intervention specialist based at Sand Hill Elementary. “And every child is different, so we have to change our teaching for what that child needs. That’s one reason I love Reading Recovery — I keep growing as a teacher because I have to figure out the child I’m teaching.”

As part of each 30-minute Reading Recovery lesson, the students read new books as well as books they have already read. Also, 10 minutes are devoted to writing.

“So they are reading and writing every day,” said Fox, who has taught Reading Recovery for 12 years.

The children keep journals throughout the year, demonstrating their progress. Each student picked a favorite journal entry to read to classmates from “Clifford’s author station.”

To encourage summer reading, each child at the “paw”ty took home a book donated by the First Book program. They also received goody bags – with the bags decorated like dogs, naturally.

Reading Recovery is paid for entirely with local funds. Also, if some students need additional help after first grade, the literacy intervention specialists are available to help them in second and third grade.

“It lays the foundation for these first-grade children and it allows them to be successful, not only in first grade but in the years to come,” Shearouse said.