The Reading Center
Submitted by Carol Markos
The structure of the Reading Center materials was created by Ellen
Owens in the early 1970s. She developed a well-thought-out program
based on separate skills—phonetics, vocabulary, sentence structure,
paragraph structure, essay structure, and indirect communication
(inference, metaphor, connotation). However, the materials had not
yet been fully developed, and some of the teaching materials were
only on tape.
In the mid-1970s, Reading Center
Coordinator Amy Awtrey recognized that student workbooks and testing
materials had to be developed. I had joined the program as a part-time
instructor, and she asked me to work with her to create the materials.
We worked on the project for years, testing and revising materials as we
went. We were not happy with the original publisher of the books, and
publication was handed to the writing and publishing company founded by
former dean Leo Meyer. We worked closely with the publisher to create
The Reading Program, a set of seven student workbooks with tests and
checkpoints for the instructor, in a format that would be easy for the
student and the instructor to use.
In creating the books and tests, we decided to use
as samples passages from real adult reading rather than teaching
exercises so often found in reading tests. We asked fellow faculty,
friends, and family to let us to use passages from their published books
and articles. We also chose passages from other books written on a
college level. Students often said they enjoyed the content and variety
of reading in the books.
The Reading Program—the set of seven
workbooks and testing materials for the instructor—was used in the
Reading Center until it was merged with the Writing Center in the
reorganization of 1991. Many other colleges have found the books useful,
and they are still in print and still being sold as this account is
The strength of the program was the easy
collaboration of the staff in creating the materials and refining the
program. The faculty and staff in the Reading Center always got along
well, and we avoided any major rifts and factions. Throughout these
years, Instructional Assistant Arlene Petersen DeLeon was a mainstay of
the program and provided continuity and institutional memory.
We knew that the students appreciated the program.
Arlene recalls that many of them, especially the foreign students, would
bring family or friends to the Center to say “this is what I have been
telling you about.” Students knew they were making progress in their
skills, and they felt safe and comfortable in the Reading Center. She
has a telling anecdote that illustrates the point. Some years ago,
Arlene met a young tutor in the Chabot WRAC Center also named Arlene. As
they talked, Arlene DeLeon said she had never met a young person with
the same name as hers. The young Arlene explained that her father had
been enrolled in the Reading Center before she was born and named her
for the person who helped him so much. Of course Arlene DeLeon was the
only Arlene at that time! She remembers the young man who brought his
pregnant wife to meet the Reading Center staff. All of us—instructors
and aides—who worked in the Reading Center hope that we too made some
lasting impressions on how our students learned.
Because of the one-on-one teaching we did, we got to
know some of our students well. Our experience with those students who
struggled to learn to read made us realize that some needed more help
than we could give them in the Reading Center. Amy Awtrey initiated a
study of our student population that determined that some had learning
disabilities requiring special help. As a result, the Administration set
up the Learning Skills Program. The staff of the new program worked
closely with the Reading Center staff to make sure that every student
got the most appropriate help needed. Students from this program
typically moved on to the Reading and Writing Centers, and many found
success in college.
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