Closing the Literacy Gap With Tiger Read-N-Rec

by Corey Fawcett

"Literacy in the city of Memphis is in a bad state," speech language-pathologist, CSD alum, and Memphis Speech and Hearing Katherine MendezCenter clinical instructor Katherine Mendez said. The data backs her up: According to the most recent data from Shelby County Schools, less than 25% of third to fifth graders in the Memphis area are reading on grade level.

These stats, in addition to Mendez' own experience working with struggling readers in Memphis, propelled her to create Tiger Read-N-Rec, an MSHC-based literacy camp in its second-year. She got the idea after attending a professional development opportunity at the University of Mankato, where she spent a week attending courses on literacy intervention in the mornings and applying what she learned at a reading camp in the afternoons.

"They partnered with their rec department and did some research on the benefits of recreation on literacy outcomes," she said. "They found recreation improved literacy outcomes and self-efficacy." Recreation will be a major component of Tiger Read-N-Rec as well. Physical activity and games will be interspersed throughout the day to keep children alert and engaged. Literacy activities will be tailored to each child's needs, and will target skills such as decoding and spelling. Campers will also create a story throughout their time at camp.

Child readingAnother key part of Mendez's mission is to give high quality clinical experience to CSD students so they can sharpen their skills in what she says is an area of speech language pathology that is highly underused.

"I want the SLP grad students to understand our role in literacy and provide those services competently," she said.

If last summer is any indication, the camp is the perfect place to start. At its conclusion, every child who attended showed significant advances. Mendez plans to keep the ball rolling this summer.

"I'm excited for students to make literacy gains and realize what they're capable of," Mendez said. "Literacy is life-changing."