Monday, September 28, 2009
To say that the Center for Reading and Writing at Rider University has had a dramatic effect on thousands of Mercer County-area students would be entirely true, albeit equally understated. Using the program she developed, Dr. Susan Mandel Glazer employs a teaching strategy and philosophy that has proven just as effective in Finland as it has in Lawrenceville.
“Finland is ranked number one in literacy in the entire world, and they have achieved that through a literacy program based on our program,” said Glazer, who founded the Center in 1980 and has helped develop curriculum in school districts as nearby as Trenton and as distant as St. Charles Parish in New Orleans and Torku Public Schools in Finland.
“The program puts the responsibility back on the kids,” said Glazer, a faculty member in the Department of Graduate Education who has taught at Rider since 1969. She teaches learning strategies, not rote content – a method she’d like to see adopted by more public school districts. “In our program, there is no direct instruction. Instead, we present options.”
The Center for Reading and Writing summer program includes 36 hours of personalized instruction given over 12 days, a three-hour student screening, followed by a parent orientation for children new to the program. At the conclusion of the practicum, a final written report of individual student’s accomplishments is presented to parents or guardians. More than 7,000 students have had their ability to read and write shaped for the better by the program over the last 30 years. The Center, whose instruction staff consists of seven Rider graduate students – already certified teachers – who are studying to be reading specialists, has also hosted such noted children’s authors as Maurice Sendak and, most recently, Marvin Terban.
“The visiting authors share their experiences with writing, and that spurs the children to write, too,” Glazer said. The Center’s 10-week fall program, which begins October 13 and lasts through the week of December 15, is now accepting student registrations for classes that meet once per week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The Center for Reading and Writing offers area children, ages 6 to 16 and of varied levels of learning, an environment where the same rules of consideration apply to everyone, from the principal – Glazer – to the Rider graduate interns who make up the instruction staff and the students themselves.
“There is never a reprimand,” said Glazer, who has also provided consultation to educators in Norway, Singapore and Japan – all nations with unusually high rates of literacy. “There is only direction, with the staff getting the student back to task. We use dialogue to push students toward comprehension.”
Reading content is chosen by the students from among a group of pre-approved books – the Center’s library contains more than 7,500 titles – and the style of learning is universal, regardless of a student’s age. “Only the content of the material changes,” she added.
Glazer’s focused approach to reading and writing has earned her recognition from within the Rider community and well beyond. A former president of the International Reading Association, which boasts more than 80,000 active members in 106 countries, she has been the recipient of the Rider University Research Award, the New Jersey Reading Association Distinguished Service Award, the College Reading Association Outstanding Service Award, and more than 25 additional honors over her career.
“The classroom management system I developed at Rider permits students of all ages to self-manage their instruction, and it has been highly successful,” said Glazer, who is also a professor of Graduate Education and coordinator of the graduate program in Reading Language Arts. “Each child follows a personalized contract aimed to meet his or her needs. Personalizing the instruction has kept the kids from being bored or failing.”
For more information on the Reading and Writing Program, call 609-896-5313.