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Lehigh students provide reading help for local children


The idea began during lunch at a downtown café. Kathryn DiPietro, assistant professor, Technology-based Teacher Education, picked up a flier from the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley and called to see what she could do to help children in the community. She learned that the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center’s summer program had a focus on education and welcomed assistance. Coincidently, she was teaching a children’s literature class and had 18 students from Special Education, Elementary Education, and Secondary Education in summer session II. DiPietro thought that a project involving the neighborhood center would be a good fit for her students, for her research, and for the children attending the program.

“I’m studying teachers in urban schools to determine what brings them there and what keeps them there,” DiPietro says. “Literature
suggests that there is a 50 percent attrition rate within the first year for teachers in urban settings. Service learning—that is, learning and practicing skills in an authentic setting in the community—is one way in which to address the high attrition rate.”

“So I created this project where my students provide reading assessment and assistance to the children in the program. Many of the children in the program are considered at-risk and are not generally non-native English speakers. This project would provide an authentic experience for our students—experiences that are shown to increase a teacher’s compassion and to create a connection to the community. Pre-service teachers who complete service learning experiences during their teacher education programs are more likely to teach in urban settings and are better prepared to deal with the unique challenges.”

DiPietro’s Technology-based Teacher Education students completed informal diagnostics of each child enrolled in the six-week program and then identified weaknesses and needs. Together with DiPietro, they made educational decisions to meet the needs of the child. Each day, students work individually with a child, improving his or her reading skills.

“I was thrilled that Dr. DiPietro was interested in working with our campers,” says Kristina Bealer, South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center program director. “Our kids are getting the attention they need: one-on-one help.”

DiPietro is continuing the project through the fall semester, participating in the Center’s after school program.

Posted on Thursday, March 04, 2004

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