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Maureen McMullen, Published February 17 2014

It's My Job: Getting young readers on the same page

FARGO - Children who struggle with reading tend to receive the most help, but those who score just below the targeted reading level are the “kids that get missed,” says Teresa Bachmeier.

Through Reading Corps, an initiative of AmeriCorps of North Dakota to help children struggling with reading get ahead, Bachmeier works with students from Fargo’s Clara Barton and Hawthorne elementary schools to bulk up their reading skills.

This will be Bachmeier’s third year with the Reading Corps.

What are your responsibilities?

I work with five kids at Clara Barton and then three kids over here (at Hawthorne). We work five days a week, 20-minute sessions, and it just depends what they need help with.

If it’s a kindergartener, we can do letter naming, letter sounds, and then first grade, it starts with blending words and reading stories. With the second- and third-graders, it’s a lot of just reading and getting them to be very fluent readers.

How do you detect kindergarteners who are having problems if they usually don’t start reading until first grade?

A big thing with Reading Corps is early detection and prevention. Even signals of not being able to name what the letters are and tell what sounds they are, because then when you get into first grade, that’s when you’re starting to blend those sounds into words.

How do kids respond to coming to these sessions?

Most kids at first are kind of leery, like, ‘Why do I have to come here?’ But, then once they start the program, they see the success that they’re getting.

We show them the graph saying, ‘Look where you started and look where you are now.’

I have one second-grader who, when he started reading, had 27 words per minute in October, and now he’s reading 85. So, when he sees that graph, he’s like, ‘Wow! I did that?’

A majority of kids are excited to come, surprisingly, because they really love seeing that progress, and that’s why it’s so fun at this age. They want to do well, and seeing them excited about how they’re progressing, that’s the most fun part.

When kids struggle with reading, how does it affect the rest of their time in school?

There’s a saying that I learned through this that in kindergarten through third grade you’re learning to read, and after that you’re reading to learn, and that’s so true.

I’ve noticed, as my son is in fourth grade now, it’s a lot of reading, and if you’re not comprehending what the story is saying, it’s so hard.

It does make a huge difference in so many things: to read the paper, to read a book, just to understand what it says and to understand why we’re reading this. It just makes a very big difference in everything they do.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Maureen McMullen at (701) 235-7311

To submit an idea for “It’s My Job,” e-mail businessnews@forumcomm.com.