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Childhood literacy focus of conference on Friday

Sept. 25, 2003

By Elvia Aguilar, reporter

More than half of the students entering high school today in the nation's largest cities read at a sixth grade level or lower, and 74 percent of children who are diagnosed with reading problems in the third grade continue having problems into the ninth grade.

Baylor's department of communication sciences and disorders is taking the initiative to 'increase the knowledge of parents and professionals' and prevent some of the literacy problems affecting children and adolescents.

The first RiteCare Conference on Childcare Language and Literacy will be held at 7 a.m. Friday in Waco Hall. The conference will give teachers and parents the opportunity to meet researchers who are publishing the most current findings on language and reading disorders.

Topics such as dyslexia, stress-free strategies for building language and literacy skills, adolescent language learning and using storybooks to promote literacy in at-risk preschools will be addressed.

'This is the first language and reading conference sponsored by Baylor, and we hope to make people aware of the importance of teaching children to read,' Michaela Ritter, a lecturer in the communication sciences and disorders department, said.

'If they can teach a child to read by the first grade, many problems can be alleviated.'

About 1,000 parents and professionals from across the nation are expected to attend the two-day conference. Among those attending are Dr. Alan Kamhi, a University of Oregon professor who researches school-age language and hearing disorders. Recently published author Dr. Laura Justice will speak about the steps to take before reading to a child.

'This conference will be a great opportunity for parents and others involved in this field because we are getting the information from the experts,' Elizabeth Hudgens, a Lufkin graduate student, said.

The conference is also sponsored by Waco Scottish Rite Bodies, a service organization that focuses on helping children overcome language and literacy problems. They are involved in the funding for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas.

Conference fees are $25 for parents, $75 for teachers and $5 for students. Breakfast and boxed lunches will be served. An additional $15 will be charged to those who plan to attend the Saturday evening banquet.

'With the literacy problems in the U.S., the issues discussed at this conference will be very crucial to understanding what can be done to prevent them.' Suzanne Dohnalik, a Cameron graduate student, said. 'We hope people are encouraged to attend.'

For more information call the department of communication sciences and disorders at 710-2567 or 710-2568.