First-grade readers are getting an extra boost with the Reading Recovery program in the Delaware City School District.

First-grade readers are getting an extra boost with the Reading Recovery program in the Delaware City School District.

The district is one of many across the country to use the Reading Recovery program, which originated in New Zealand before making its way to Ohio State University in 1984.

It's a 20-week program for first-graders who are low achievers in reading and writing.

The program is individualized and aims to get students up to average or expected levels of reading and writing by the end of the 20 weeks.

Carol Smith, Reading Recovery teacher at Schultz Elementary School, has been working with students in this program since 1999.

Every school in the district has one Reading Recovery teacher to facilitate the program, Smith said.

"It's a structured program that allows us to design lesson plans for individual students," she said. "We write the plans each day based on where we need to go next."

Students are assessed for their strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of the 20 weeks. In addition to having their reading level assessed, they also are tested on letter identification, word reading in isolation, print concepts, writing vocabulary and association of sounds with letters.

"Based on all these things, we choose books for them that will be right at their comfortable reading level," Smith said. "That way they will still be challenged, but be able to feel successful."

One of the activities involves students telling Smith a story. She will write out a few sentences, then cut up the words and have students arrange them into sentences at home.

"Every kid comes with strengths and weaknesses," she said. "We try to maximize their strengths as well as improving on their weaknesses."

Every day, the students keep reading the book they read the day before in order to have familiar readings that will help build on their strengths.

Smith said the program is intense, and although it doesn't have a 100 percent success rate, it's close.

"Our students are able to catch up with their other classmates and perform well in the classroom," she said. "Many other English-speaking countries like Great Britain and New Zealand have had great success also."

Smith said a highlight for her came five years ago when she saw the success of one of her former students.

"One of my students that went through the Reading Recovery Program graduated from Hayes High School as a salutatorian," she said. "That was so exciting."

Smith said the district focuses on early intervention in order to give students as much extra reinforcement as they need, instead of waiting until it's too late.

"This district invests a lot in these students and really wants all students to be successful," she said.