Baylor Literacy Program Serves Central Texas Children

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    Speech pathologists use an interactive metronome to measure temporoal processing.
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July 10, 2006

by Frank Raczkiewicz

The Department of Education estimates more than 50 percent of American children have difficulty learning to read. In Central Texas, an estimated 4,500 children begin school each year with language impairments that affect their ability to read. But thanks to a rare and extremely successful summer literacy program at Baylor University, many local children are tackling their language and literacy problems and emerging stronger than ever.

On Monday, July 10, 60 children who have reading and speaking difficulties began the first of four weeks on the Baylor campus taking part in Camp Success, a unique literacy program that targets both written and oral language.

"Reading and speaking are interconnected and at the same time, reciprocal," said Dr. Michaela Ritter, who is the Camp Success director and associate chair of communication sciences and disorders department at Baylor. "We address both areas at the camp, which makes it distinctive."

A free program thanks to a generous grant from the Waco Scottish Rite, Camp Success has seen high growth in four years of operation. This year, nearly 250 children applied, the most in the history of the camp, and a waiting list has been started for next year's Camp Success. The camp started in 2003 with just 24 children. Ritter credits the growth to the success rate of the program, with 90 percent of the participants achieving an unprecedented one-to-four-year jump in reading ability.

"The growth of Camp Success has all been by word-of-mouth around the community," Ritter said. "We've had parents come back to us so excited because their child asked them to read a book for the first time ever."

Ritter said what sets Camp Success apart from other traditional reading and literacy programs is the intensity of the camp. The campers receive 62 hours of one-on-one therapy in four weeks, which is equivalent to a full year's worth of therapy in some school districts. Additionally, all of the techniques are based on leading research conducted by Ritter.

At the start of the program, each participant, who ranges in age from five to 18, is evaluated individually to determine their specific strengths and weaknesses. Speech pathologists then develop a step-by-step plan tailored to each child.

"One of the most memorable success stories happened with one of our high school participants," Ritter said. "He was unable to pass core classes because he had a severe reading disability and that was leading to behavioral problems. By the end of the program, he was reading and just last month, he graduated high school. He now wants to go to college."

Camp Success is one of many programs offered through Baylor's Language and Literacy Clinic in the department of communication sciences and disorders. However, even though the camp is staffed by Baylor faculty and students, it is fully funded through a grant from Waco Scottish Rite. To date, the group has given more than $250,000 to the program.

"Reading is the key to being successful," said Claude Ervin, who is the Waco Scottish Rite chairman. "We feel Camp Success does a wonderful job helping children achieve in reading. The feeling you get when you help a child succeed is overwhelming and we are happy to help."

Camp Success also significantly contributes to Baylor 2012, the university's 10-year vision. Dr. David Garrett, who is chair of the communication sciences and disorders department, said the program allows Baylor students to learn the latest techniques and then lets them "put it into practice," two key parts of 2012. Garrett also said Camp Success serves others and the entire Waco community.

A recent related article in the Baylor Line is available here.

For more information, contact Dr. Ritter at (254) 710-4745.

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