April 22, 2019 | 56° F

Rutgers Graduate School of Education addresses literacy issues

Photo by Louis Kang |

The Graduate School of Education hosts several literacy programs aimed at supporting children and adults looking to improve their English.

Literary exploration is usually a journey controlled by school teachers, but the Rutgers Graduate School of Education is taking this responsibility into their own hands.

The Rutgers Graduate School of Education spearheads several community initiatives to promote literacy throughout the community, including the Rutgers Reading Club, the Tutoring Plus Program and the Conversation Tree, said Mary Curran, associate dean for Local-Global Partnerships in the Graduate School of Education.

“Literacy is the backbone to education. We learn everything through language, so if you don’t have access to the texts or are not able to think critically about what you’re listening to or learning in classrooms, you are at a disadvantage,” Curran said.

The initiatives vary from providing literacy support to children to assisting adults learning the English language, she said. 

Students facilitate conversation classes with community members as part of the Conversation Tree program, she said. They gain leadership skills and non-native speakers gain confidence in their English language abilities. 

Their first exposure to this program is through the Community-Based Language Learning class, she said. Students also take classes in immigrant demographics and global citizenship.

The Tutoring Plus program provides tutoring to New Brunswick children of all ages. Tutoring Plus also promotes a reading program in Highland Park for first and second grade students, Curran said.

The Rutgers literacy initiatives, especially the Tutoring Plus program, aim to engage students by providing them a Rutgers student as a role model and encouraging students to read materials they find interesting, said Silver Laur, a student in the Graduate School of Education and former Tutoring Plus tutor.

Ideally, the program will foster a life-long love of reading, he said

Those who are not literate get “short-handed” in the system. The tutoring program encourages reading to put students on a level playing field by canceling out inequality due to family background or economic problems, Laur said.

There is a strong correlation between literacy and juvenile delinquency. Out of all juvenile criminals, 85 percent are illiterate, according to the Huffington Post.

“Not being able to read is a big loss of a big skill ... and maybe that leads them to take different courses of action in their lives,” Laur said.

Those considered functionally illiterate are more likely to have low paying jobs, be in trouble with the law, have social problems, have a chronic illness, live in poverty and eventually, have children that follow suit. This is a systemic problem, said Lesley Morrow, founder of the Rutgers Reading Club.

Morrow developed the Rutgers Reading Club three years ago. The program is now present in more 20 districts in New Jersey.

The Reading Club is a research-based program. The 12-week program almost doubled the number of sight words a student could read and significantly raised the difficulty level of literature students could read, she said.

The program is successful because it enhances children’s self-esteem. Teachers build a strong relationship with students in classrooms boasting a three-to-one student to teacher ratio, Morrow said.

“Every kid is different and needs to be diagnosed and prescribed for them. We are trying to do that with all of these children who are so diverse and come from different backgrounds,” Morrow said.


Francesca Petrucci is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Find her on Twitter @TheFranWeekly for more.

Francesca Petrucci

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