Professor publishes research on teaching struggling readers

Emerging results of a program led by Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr appears in the Autumn/Winter 2011 volume of Dyslexia Review.

Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr


Since 2008, Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr in the School of Education has led a course for college students studying to be teachers on how to effectively teach young children with difficulty reading.

Her work caught the attention of a Switzerland foundation that has funded the expansion of the class and accompanying tutoring program to college campuses elsewhere in North Carolina and Oregon.

How the program helps children, as well as its impact on the college students enrolled in the course, is the focus of research that Rohr and Assistant Professor He (Jane) Ye at UNC Greensboro published this fall in a British journal focused on dyslexia.

Writing in Dyslexia Review: The Journal of the Dyslexia Guild, the two researchers found that children surveyed before and after taking part in the program developed a stronger recognition of the importance of reading for their futures. As for the college students, pre- and post-course surveys showed the growth of appreciation for the roles parents play in helping students overcome their reading struggles.

“The pre-service teachers under consideration came to realize that if they are to truly understand how to teach children to read they must move beyond their content knowledge, reading theories, and pedagogical knowledge to a space where they are forced to work closely with children who find reading daunting,” the authors write. “They must also collaborate with others in the ‘village.’ These others can be classroom teachers, parents, librarians and teacher educators.

Rohr started the “It Takes a Village” program as part of her teaching struggling readers class. Elon students enrolled in the course joined with local elementary school children as part of the curriculum. The Elon students spend the first half of the semester in the classroom before they traveled once a week to the May Memorial Library in downtown Burlington to meet with their young pupils.

The class concludes each year with a reception at Barnes & Noble in Alamance Crossing, where the college students helped their younger charges select up to $50 of books to take home at no cost to the families.

The course provides teacher candidates a chance to test theories taught in their own classrooms, and it gives them time to work with parents, including some who don’t speak English. Together, the education majors, Rohr and interpreters diagnose reading challenges and help the children overcome those hurdles, while showing parents what to do at home during the week.

The Switzerland-based Oak Foundation took note of the initial success and awarded Rohr a $200,000 grant last year to replicate the reading program through partnerships with UNC Greensboro and Concordia University in Portland, Ore.

“We are suggesting a fresh new look at involving parents in this effort as we encourage pre-service and novice teachers to ally themselves with parents in the education of children,” Rohr and He write in their conclusion. “We know parents are more than willing to seek assistance and work with their children when given an opportunity to do so. We see them at the doorsteps of our practice week after week.”

The article is not currently available online.