There’s a saying that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. However, in Second Chance Reading classrooms served by Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) and across the state, reluctant and struggling readers are getting their second chance to become accomplished readers through the conscientious efforts of dedicated teachers. In Second Chance Reading (SCR) classrooms, there’s a busy energy and excitement around books. Hesitant readers are independently and enthusiastically reading books, discussing books in energetic pairs, and engaged in literature at a deeper level for the first time in many of their adolescent lives. Second Chance Reading classrooms often have tubs of books separated by specific genre, and wall charts show any visitor to the classroom how much reading is occurring. Students engage in active conversation with peers over grade level text at a deeper level than they have ever previously experienced. Reading is “all abuzz” in these classrooms. Mary Wiltgen, a middle school literacy and family consumer science teacher from Sumner-Fredericksburg Middle School states, “this program has given our struggling readers an opportunity to enjoy literature. Because the students choose their own reading material, which becomes their textbook, they read more. The more you read, the better reader you become. I have seen very reluctant readers find an author or genre they enjoy which makes it hard for them to put their book down. This is the type of excitement for reading I see in my SCR classroom. Often times, students ask if they can read today! Second Chance Reading has been a great option for students who struggle with the traditional reading curriculum. Our students are identified from their scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and other tests plus academic grades and teacher recommendation. Administrative support is essential for this program to be truly successful since it is imperative that the class size be manageable for the activities suggested.” Teachers aren’t the only ones feeling enthusiastic about SCR. As reluctant readers become avid readers through participation in the initiative. Seventh grader Cody, from Sumner-Fredericksburg Middle School reported, “Before I never used to read, but now I do.” And Emma, also from Sumner-Fredericksburg Middle School said, “Before we had little stories, I used to think they were boring. But now we do reader’s theater. It’s fun.” A Second Chance Reading classroom is specifically designed for adolescent students who fall between two and five years behind grade level peers. Nearly 300 teachers from AEA 267 have been trained in Second Chance Reading since the 2006-07 school year. During the 2009-10 school year, over 400 students were served and multiple teachers reported astronomical gains in student achievement. Many students truly received their “second chance.”
Editor’s Note: Becky Williams is a literacy consultant with Area Education Agency 267. She can be reached at 319-268-7619. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.