Profiles of C.A.R.E.

Friends on the Block teaches the joy of reading

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 AllorJill 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.”

Friends on the Block has grown from a grant study into a full-fledged business with its unique curriculum available to teachers and parents alike.

“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.

“It’s a very fun, active program. One of the things that’s been the most exciting about it is that the kids are so engaged. They really like it and some of these kids really hated reading and hated having that kind of instruction and wasn’t interested in the process,” Jill says. “Our program is kind of like a wheelchair ramp to get into a building. These are kids who really need that ramp or they’re not going to make it in. Other kids may be able to sprint up the ramp, but our kids are going to go a little more slowly, but oh do they need that ramp. And they need us to take it one step at a time for them.”

Friends on the Block teaches the joy of reading

— Written by Tamara Devers

  1. Denise Wenner says:

    Two wonderful and inspiring videos! They expanded my idea about what’s possible. Thank you.

  2. Interesting. I agree that it is so helpful for kids to have more content on their level. My son got stuck on short vowel words for 2 years. He couldn’t understand that a vowel could make more than one sound.

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