I used to teach Title I reading for eight years at Parkview Elementary in Lamar, a rural town in southeast Colorado. It was there I worked with small groups of first and second graders who needed help in reading. I traveled to each classroom using a cart to carry my supplies. I tried many types of methods and materials with the hope that my students would improve; however I wasn’t experiencing much success using them.
Disappointed and discouraged, I went to Melody, a friend and colleague who is a veteran first-grade teacher. I asked her if she knew of a program that helps students learn to read. Melody discussed the matter with her mother, who worked as an aide in an Iowa school district. It was through them that I was introduced to the Reading Horizons program. I was informed that first graders in that Iowa school district made tremendous progress in reading.
Hearing what wonders had been accomplished, I was eager to try the program with my students. My students liked using the chalk and chalkboards to write letters, consonants, vowels, words and sentences. Incidentally, chalk and chalkboards are multisensory materials that enable students to learn faster through their senses. These visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile senses help the brain remember more.
Reading Horizons provided the tools to help my students decode words and sentences as well as write words and sentences. I found their comprehension improved with speed and word accuracy while using easy-to-read books.
Why do I like the program? I feel that the program is good because it is researched based. The student is taught to take an unknown word and break it down into parts in order to identify it. The program’s systematic way builds on the last lesson. Its direct instruction requires students' complete attention. The teacher constantly reviews what is previously taught, which helps the teacher monitor the progress of each student. Finally, two last strong points for the program are that it is cost effective, and it helped my students become successful. Students, parents, and (I) myself were happy with the results.
I recall one student named Juan who came up to me one day with worried look on his face and said, “Mrs. Cooper, I can’t read and I need help!” He is an English as a Second Language student speaking English at school and Spanish at home. I placed him in the program and began working with him. At the end of second grade, he achieved one grade level in reading. His father said to me, "Thank you for helping our Juanito learn to read.” That comment was proof enough for me that this program works and has made my teaching worthwhile. All of my second graders were tested at the end of the year and showed achievement. I was very pleased!