Transportable classroom aids children with learning disabilities
BrightStart! designed to detect and treat reading deficiencies and dyslexia in young children
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 22:10
Shebra Hall drives a van that is also a transportable classroom to the homes of children with learning disabilities. Hall is the community initiative coordinator of BrightStart!, a program designed to detect and treat reading deficiencies and dyslexia in children, that is organized by Delaware’s branch of the children’s health system Nemours.
The program tests pre-kindergarten aged children to ensure they do not fall behind in reading comprehension, according to Hall.
Hall said the project is the first of its kind nationwide. The program provides evidence-based tools for three to five-year-old children at risk of reading deficiency, with the goal of laying the foundation for long-term reading success in children.
Hall said visiting these homes helps spread awareness about the BrightStart! program and allows them to test children whose caretakers request the free service. She said they often look for dyslexia and other reading disabilities that can cause a child to fall behind on reading comprehension.
“Dyslexia is a learning disability that can be detected at a very early age,” Hall said. “Essentially, if a child starts off school behind, it’s really difficult for them to catch up. Those who start behind often stay behind.”
According to Hall, the program began in Jacksonville, Fla. in 2005 and moved to Delaware in 2010. She said the program now focuses primarily on locations in lower Delaware in areas more at-risk, specifically in Spanish speaking areas and lower income communities.
Hall said children’s ability to identify letters and their sounds are early predictors of a child’s reading ability.
She said she tests children with screening tools to score their chances of reading inadequacy. She then tells parents and teachers how to help children learn early literacy concepts.
For those who score low, Nemours provides the educators of the child with a specifically designed intervention program meant to improve their reading ability.
According to the factsheet, Brightstart! has tested more than 9,400 pre-kindergarteners, with 1,500 of those scoring low enough to receive Nemours educational intervention curriculum. Those who participate in the intervention gain an average of 114 percent on their reading readiness score after completion of the program, compared to their typically developing peers, who only gain an average of 25 percent over the same time period.
Nicole Ruff, assistant director of Bright Horizons, a preschool and day care center in Wilmington, said she believes reading to children and engaging them early on are essential to ensuring their educational success in the future.
“When we read stories, we ask questions to make sure they’re absorbing the information,” Ruff said. “The first key is to make sure they understand the story. Their interest in reading is going to build creativity and success in their school future.”
Senior Maggie Tyndell, an early childhood education major, said she also believes reading to children is essential to their learning development.