18 Aug Reading is a Game Changer

It should come as not surprise that current research consistently shows that low reading levels in children affect high school dropout rates, involvement in criminal activity, and the probability that at-risk youth will remain in the criminal justice system throughout their adult life.

When youth arrive on the YOC campus they are typically behind academically by two grade levels. They may not have had consistent schooling, a support system at home or self-confidence in a classroom setting. When children change schools they lose approximately six months in essential skills.

However, it’s important to realize that struggling with vital reading skills is not a sign of low intelligence. At the YOC, we’re committed to providing quality services to each and every child. We believe that by teaching a child to read, we will impact their ability to be successful in life.

Dr. Ruth Jefferson leans over a desk to talk with one of the students in the program.

Dr. Ruth Jefferson speaks to one of the students involved in the program.

In early 2016, Ball State University and the YOC, through a grant from the National Institute of Justice, collaborated to offer a new reading program at YOC for residents. This program is both research and a Ball State immersive learning class for the purpose of building positive relationships with residents and teaching them reading intervention strategies. Ball State faculty members Dr. Janay Sander and Dr. Ruth Jefferson refer to the project as Team 2. Ball State students meet with the residents who are enrolled in the project three days per week to help improve reading skills. All youth in the reading program are showing significant gains in reading skills in a very short period of time. In fact, one resident increased his reading level by almost two grades in just four months.

YOC Education Coordinator Lindsay Price and her team of education assistants have also seen improvements in science and math as a direct result of the project. “Reading and comprehending what you’ve read are two very different things,” she said. “Understanding what you’re reading is a game changer. It boosts a child’s confidence, which allows for more participation in class. As a result, we’re seeing vast improvements in other subjects as well.”

As the Team 2 research program begins to wind down in 2018, the goal at the end of the project is complete transfer to YOC. Ball State faculty will train YOC staff to deliver the reading program, and give the YOC all of the books used in the study. “The Reading Intervention Program has proven to be an excellent resource for youth on our campus,” said YOC Residential Director Char Hawkins. “When youth come to the YOC, we find they have often struggled to meet expectations in reading, but through their own personal hard work, and the collaborative efforts of BSU and YOC, we have seen them make great strides toward being at their appropriate reading level. Some have found a genuine love for reading, which will only serve them well in the future.”

This story is from the 2017 Summer Newsletter. To view the full newsletter click here.