NIU Literacy Clinic helps out grades K-12

Danny Cozzi

DeKALB | The NIU Literacy Clinic, 3100 Sycamore Road, provides diagnostic assessments as well as individual or group tutoring for any students, from kindergarten through high school senior, that struggle with reading.

The clinic was founded in the 1950s by Eugene B. Grant, who then served as the director of the program for 15 years until his retirement in 1973.

Clinic director Laurie Elish-Piper said it originally had two purposes.

“One is to provide high quality supervised clinical experiences for graduate students who are seeking to be reading specialists,” Elish-Piper said.

Elish-Piper also said it was to provide high quality low-cost services for students with difficulties with reading.

One program now offered at the clinic is called America Reads, which is a free program designed for grades kindergarten through fifth.

“It provides free, 50-minute, one-on-one tutoring sessions,” said America Reads coordinator Valerie Goode.

Goode said the services are offered during the school year as well as during the summer and all of them are free of charge.

“One summer had over a hundred students that were coming in,” Goode said.

Another program at the clinic is called ASSIST, or, “assessment and strategic tutoring.” It focuses on two specific fields of literacy aid.

“One course focuses on the diagnostic assessment and the other on individualized tutoring,” Elish-Piper said.

Generally there is a particular diagnostic process to get a sense of where the student struggles as well as where the student does well, Elish-Piper said.

“With younger students, issues are more that they have difficulty with awareness of phonics,” Elish-Piper said.

Elish-Piper also said some of the older students deal primarily with issues of motivation or interest.

The clinic also provides a diagnostic assessment, a six-session program that allows tutors to see where the child is at and where the child struggles.

According to the clinic’s website, the program at the clinic provides an in-depth analysis of reading achievement, strengths and areas to improve on.

Goode said a diagnostic assessment costs $60 and reviews spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary.

“Everything is one-on-one so it’s very personalized and the community program works with those needs and the tutor works with the child towards those goals,” Goode said.

At the end of the six-week session, the students and tutors have a conference with the parents to review the progress made along the way, Goode said.

A third program is known as RITS, or “Reading Individualized Tutoring Services,” which is a general focus on students possessing difficulties with reading.

“It’s with certified reading specialists who provide individualized reading support,” Elish-Piper said.

According to the clinic’s website, all tutors at the clinic are certified teachers who are pursuing a master’s degree in literacy education with specialization in reading at NIU.