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Summer camp cracks code for reading success

New to Pittsburg State University’s Center for READing this summer, the Secret Codes Camp is helping children who struggle with reading become confident, competent readers.  

David Hurford, chair of the Department of Psychology and director of the Center for READing, started the Center in 1997 in order to provide assessments and prevention for children struggling with reading.  

“The mission (of the Center for READing) is to continue to do scientific research in the area of reading difficulties, dyslexia, and attention,” Hurford said. “Also, part of the mission is to help the public become aware of what dyslexia is, how to solve reading difficulties, how to evaluate for reading difficulties.”  

Fifteen years ago, Hurford created the Secret Codes curriculum that helps young students develop and strengthen reading skills. Some of the objectives outlined in the curriculum include phonological and phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and parental involvement, to name a few.   

“The Secret Codes curriculum is a science-based curriculum to help individuals either to learn how to read or to become confident readers who have experienced reading failure,” Hurford said.  

This summer the Center for READing is offering an eight-week camp that integrates the Secret Codes curriculum into daily sessions. Students meet for 50 minutes Monday through Thursday at one of the four sessions offered, 10 or 11 a.m. for Kindergarten students and 8 or 9 a.m. for first through fifth grade students. Each session is split into two parts to allow students time to learn individually and as a group. 

Cody Lindbloom, graduate student in clinical psychology, works as a graduate assistant at the Center for READing and is also one of the instructors for some of the camp’s afternoon sessions. He said that the students spend a lot of time working on phonemes, or distinct units of sound.  

“… The Secret Codes curriculum is great because we start at the bare bones of reading, we work at the skeleton, the foundation of the house, we look at the phonemes to identify the letters, because being able to work with phonemes and manipulate phonemes, that’s key to being able to be a competent, confident reader,” Lindbloom said. “… Some of the things we do is we work on seeing a letter, not knowing the letter name but seeing the letter and knowing the sound that goes with the letter. Right now we’re working on, it’s really the basics of reading.”  

Some common challenges the Center for READing and Secret Codes Camp assist students with include dyslexia, attention difficulties, and being able to recognize sounds. The Center helps determine each individual’s needs by examining the extent of these challenges with an assessment.  

“… Individuals who have dyslexia, about 30 to 50 percent of those individuals also have difficulties with attention, like with ADHD,” Lindbloom said. “… We also look at hearing. Hearing is very important because … if we have difficulties with reading, of course we’re going to have difficulties with discriminating between phonemes, it’s just going to exacerbate the problem.”  

Dyslexia is one of the most common reading challenges students who come to the Center struggle with.  

“ … An individual who has dyslexia may have difficulties sometimes with hearing what their teacher says, their teacher may say the word ‘bug’ but that might not be what they’re hearing, they may be hearing the word ‘tug’ or ‘jug,’ and that might be the best case scenario, the worst case scenario would be a different word,” Lindbloom said.  

The Center also looks at students’ emotional and behavioral characteristics as part of the assessment to ensure all factors that may affect reading ability and level are taken into consideration.  

“All through the year and even now we do our evaluations for reading difficulties, and that evaluation not only looks at the subskills of reading but looks at attentional capacity and other issues that are related to academic difficulties,” Hurford said.  

The Secret Codes camp ends Thursday, July 26, but the Center offers reading services and programs year-round, and Hurford hopes to bring the Secret Codes camp back next year as well.  

“Good enrollment (in the camp) thus far, the kids are enjoying it and having fun, they’re learning stuff, so that’s all good,” Hurford said. “… We’ll most likely do it again next summer as well. … We have our intervention that we provide that helps individuals who experience reading difficulties become confident readers, and we do that throughout the year.” 

The Center for READing is located in Whitesitt 209 on the Pittsburg State University campus. To schedule an appointment, call 620-235-4593 or send an email to READing@pittstate.edu.   



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