Tuesday Reading Specialist Joan Richards is very glad to be back teaching reading.
“I missed teaching so much,” said Joan, who has a master’s degree as a reading specialist and who taught for 15 years in schools run by the Chicago Archdiocese. “It’s a great release to be involved in teaching again — it’s such worthwhile work.”
Joan was a volunteer tutor at Cluster about 10 years ago but stopped tutoring when she had a new baby at home. She learned about the need for a reading specialist on Tuesdays from a neighbor, Bernadette Diaz, who serves as the reading specialist on Thursdays. Working on Tuesday evenings “works perfectly with my schedule,” she said.
She spends much of her time at Cluster working with young struggling readers, but she is doing reading assessments on all students up to grade 6, which she called a “useful tool. We’ve got to see where everyone’s strength lies.” She also measures vocabulary levels for 7th and 8th graders.
“I have kids read a passage. That tells me how fluent they are, and to see what they do when they come to an unknown word.” It also assesses how students solve those problems.
Once assessments are done, she can work with students and tutors individually. “Parents are always welcome to meet with me, too,” she added. “I can go around to the different rooms at tutoring and have private meetings.”
She said her strengths are with younger kids. “Reading is such foundational knowledge. It’s very important work to do this in the early years.”
Joan has specialized training in Leveled Literacy Intervention, a program designed specially to work with struggling readers, which she used before with students in grades K-2. She also has an LBS1 Special Education certification.
Joan uses several tools with young readers. “We concentrate not only in phonics, but with vocabulary and comprehension. We even use tactile activities, where you can use your body as cues.
“I’m just glad to be back into the world of reading,” she added.