BANGOR — From Mars Hill to York, teachers and students gathered recently at Cole Land Transportation Museum to celebrate 20 years of Reading Recovery, the early intervention program designed to help struggling young readers get back on track toward a productive education.
If the 34,000 participants in the Maine program’s first two decades were gathered together, they would comprise a community larger than the city of Bangor.
The beginning of Reading Recovery, which involves specially trained teachers working one-on-one with first-graders for 12-20 weeks, goes back to a teacher from New Zealand. In this country, the first training and program were conducted in Ohio, with Reading Recovery coming to the University of Maine in 1993.
Teachers from more than a dozen school systems came to the recent celebration not only to praise the literacy training they got through UMaine, but to tell Gary, Galen and Sue Cole, representatives of the Cole Family Foundation which has helped fund Reading Recovery all 20 years, how much they appreciate the ongoing support they receive by meeting with a teacher leader and other RR teachers in their area.
Some of the educators brought with them excited youngsters who have bloomed in Reading Recovery, each little one proud to have a few moments at the microphone to share something they enjoyed reading. Sue Cole, especially, leaned forward to catch each word.
Teachers shared special stories of their own, as well.
One Reading Recovery teacher from Downeast told of stopping by the grocery store at the end of a busy day to pick up a gallon of milk, only to meet up with one very enthusiastic mom eager to give an update of her young son, who had started the school year saying he had no interest in books or reading.
“You’ll never guess! You’ll never guess!” the parent said. “I caught him reading — in his room!”
Another teacher with just a few years in Reading Recovery asserted that the literacy training was “more important than anything I learned in school, more valuable than my degree.”
Yet a third educator said how moved she was when a parent born in Somalia summed up his conclusions about literacy education and its value for his child: “If you can’t read and write, you have no power.”
Speakers during the event included William Dee Nichols, dean of the College of Education and Human Development at UM; Mary Rosser, director of the University Training Center for Reading Recovery; and Janelle Burgoyne, teacher in Enfield, the first Reading Recovery site in the state.
These and others thanked the Cole Foundation for supporting the program every year, including the cost of training a new teacher leader this past year. In particular, officials cited Sue Cole for her role as mother, wise woman and faithful “gardener” who had played a special role in the foundation’s continuing efforts in teacher training and nurturing young learners.
Cole was presented with a book of poems, garden figures of a little boy and little girl with a book, and a plaque to be placed with them.
Surprised to be singled out for so many thank yous during the 20th anniversary celebration, Mrs. Cole said only, “I hope I can live up to that. I try.”
Teachers encouraged her to find a special garden spot for the sculptures, and so she has. The little readers have been placed in a spot of honor in the museum’s Suzanne Cole Conference Room, where the celebration was held, and where middle- and high-schoolers come from around the state during the school year to absorb history and civics through participation in the Veterans Interview Program.
Another of Sue Cole’s favorite gardens.
For information on Reading Recovery, contact Amy Cates at the University of Maine, 581-2438. For information on Cole Land Transportation Museum, call 581-3600, ext. 13, go to www.colemuseum.org, or visit the museum at 405 Perry Road, Bangor. Youngsters 18 and under are admitted free. Adults pay $7, $5 for those 62 and over.