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Fighting Dyslexia

Monday, November 6, 2017

With the support of a $2 million, 20-year founding pledge from Bob and Joan Peirce, Robert Morris University has announced the creation of a center within its School of Education and Social Sciences to prepare teachers to work with children with dyslexia, both in the classroom and as tutors.

The Bob and Joan Peirce Center for Structured Reading Teacher Training will supply a steady stream of teachers and tutors in structured reading approaches, including the Orton-Gillingham approach, a method of reading instruction for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. In addition, the center will provide outreach services to parents and professional development for school districts.

Demand currently outstrips supply for tutors prepared in the method. Both the Laughlin Children's Center in Sewickley and the Children's Dyslexia Center in Pittsburgh have waiting lists for Orton-Gillingham tutoring.

"So many children are in need of explicit, multi-sensory reading instruction and yet very few graduate programs offer such training," said Carianne Bernadowski, professor of education and the director of the Bob and Joan Peirce Center for Structured Reading Teacher Training. "With this funding, we will be able to provide both training for teachers and tutoring for the children who desperately need it."

The new center will build upon an existing partnership between the university, the Laughlin Children's Center and Children's Dyslexia Center. In that partnership, which also was supported by the Peirces with a $54,000 contribution, the university developed a graduate-level training program, including a practicum with 100 hours of supervised tutoring, to certify instructors in the Orton-Gillingham method.

In the last two years, 19 instructors have enrolled in that program, offering tutoring in one-hour evening sessions at the RMU Literacy Center on the university's Moon Township campus and at the Laughlin Children's Center. Thirty-two children have received Orton-Gillingham tutoring in the program. Along with its partners, the center will continue to provide direct tutoring services to area children.

The new center's budget includes funding for scholarships for teachers each year to receive the training. It also includes scholarships for families unable to pay for their children's reading instruction.

For more information contact Carianne Bernadowski at bernadowski@rmu.edu or 412-397-5463.