Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Meet the Children Who Got a Second Chance; Children Came into Literacy Centre with Next to No Reading or Writing Skills. They Left with a Bank of New Vocabulary and Swagger of Confidence

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Meet the Children Who Got a Second Chance; Children Came into Literacy Centre with Next to No Reading or Writing Skills. They Left with a Bank of New Vocabulary and Swagger of Confidence

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura McKee gladstoneobserver.com.au

Literacy Centre in numbers

Three primary schools

17 weeks

85 days

18 students

Classes run from 8.15am-12.45pm, Monday to Friday

150 books read between students

400 hours put in by reading tutors

4 students had 100% attendance

Intake 29 could read 61 words per minute, on exit can read 93 words/minute

One teacher and two teacher aides

WHEN 18 nervous Year 5 and 6 students walked into the Gladstone Literacy Centre in February, their average reading accuracy level was that of seven-year-olds.

All of them struggled with basic writing and they wouldn't have dared read aloud in front of their class.

Standing tall and proud on the stage for their graduation 85 days later, their average reading accuracy is that of nine-year-olds.

That is an average gain per student of 22 months.

The children from Kin Kora, Tannum Sands and Benaraby State School are the 29th intake of students since the program started in 2001.

It aims to bridge the gap with a focused literacy program for dispirited students at risk of not coping with secondary school.

Students are visited three of five days in a week by Chris Tanner OAM, who has a cup of tea and chat with them.

Mr Tanner was the brains behind the program, which he started 14 years ago.

"I was listening to Margaret Throsby on the ABC in 1998 and I heard Reverend Bill Crews talking," Mr Tanner said.

"He was talking about helping homeless children who couldn't read and write.

"I went and saw Bill in Sydney and the rest is history."

Mr Tanner set up the Gladstone Literacy Centre and it gained momentum slowly in the city.

He said the Gladstone community was "understandably dubious" about the program at first.

"They thought it might be a one or two-year hit-wonder," he said.

"It took about three or four years before people financially supported it.

"It's easy to start things but not easy to keep them going. That's the difficult part.

"But this was always meant to happen, I am sure of it."

Thanks to the program, 462 children have turned their lives around and over $15 million has been put into the program.

But the humble Mr Tanner said he didn't want praise.

"This is about the program, not me," he said. …

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