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CARE Member Contributions to The Next Thirty Years

The Reading Center
Submitted by Carol Markos
Chabot College

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 written.

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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©2007 C.A.R.E.

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