Family troubles kept Caleb,* 8, from learning to read. Because he didn’t know any letter sounds before coming to Wilkes Elementary School as a second grader, his reading scores were at a pre-kindergarten level.
But with the help of special education teacher Sharon Little, M.S., who uses The Shadow Project, along with the support of his foster parents, Caleb is ending the school year ready for third grade. Experts say meeting or exceeding statewide reading benchmarks is one key indicator of on-time high school graduation.
“It’s amazing,” said Sharon. “Caleb has made such great progress, and he has a great vocabulary. He is now reading at a third grade level. That’s eight reading levels in one school year!”
Sharon said she used the tangible rewards from The Shadow Project to encourage positive behavior in Caleb, who tended to act out or just disappear from the classroom when he got frustrated.
“The Shadow Project helped with motivation,” said Sharon. ““Kids need intrinsic rewards for a job well done, but the extrinsic, or tangible ones, really do make a difference, particularly in school populations where the needs are greater.”
Caleb, who had been coveting a watch that he received the last week of school, said he “feels proud” when he works hard and earns.
“I can bring stuff home and show my [foster] parents how much I’ve done at school,” he said, clutching an Amelia Bedelia book. “It feels good to be able to read. I’ve learned new words, and I know what they mean.
“I like to read.”
*Name changed, per request