Friends on the Block holds a very special place in my heart, which is why it’s the Profiles of C.A.R.E. feature this month. As a research subject, Catherine participated in Jill Allor’s pilot reading study which elevated her reading levels and opened up a whole new world for her. I’m extremely happy that I have this opportunity to share her story with you.
Jill Allor’s passion is reading, more specifically teaching children with intellectual disabilities the joys of reading. After receiving her doctorate from Vanderbilt in 1996, Jill dedicated her professional life to childhood literacy and she, along with her team, were awarded a federal grant in 2005 to study methods on teaching reading to students with severe reading difficulties.
“I was part of a longitudinal study where we followed children’s progress over four years,” Jill remembers. “I’d always worked with children with learning disabilities or others who struggled with reading, but this was the first study that I’d done that focused on kids with intellectual disabilities.”
What they learned was eye-opening. They discovered that what worked for children without intellectual disabilities also worked for children with them. The biggest issue was that the kids would get “stuck” on a particular part of the curriculum and couldn’t get past it. Another problem was that the children were getting bored with the books they had to practice with. They still hadn’t mastered the skills but there was only one book that really fit their needs. After the original grant was done, Jill and her team applied for and were awarded a second grant to create a new program to improve on the first.
“We rearranged the content, included supports and now we have multiple books at every level. The support in the book allows the children to participate in reading very early in the process. They may not even know their whole alphabet yet, but they can pick up one of our books and start to read it.”
“I’m extremely optimistic.” Jill states. “I think once people start using it, they’ll start sharing it with other people and it’s going to take off. It’s not just for kids with intellectual disabilities, I think it’s for any child who’s in this early stage of reading and is struggling.”
Jill and her team’s dedication to their cause shines through. They created the curriculum, wrote and illustrated the books and even created the companion games that go with them. And it’s all paid off. Jill hears from teachers and parents that her program has succeeded where others have not.
— Written by Tamara Devers