Carol J. Solomon, MS
As a little girl I loved the fantasy that a story can bring to life. We had a set of books called Books of Knowledge that I loved to look through even before I could read. They sat on a bookcase that my father had lovingly made, and although my mother read to me from those books occasionally, my father never did. I remember asking him to read to me, but he always had some excuse. Having watched my dad over the years I now understand why; he couldn't. For him, reading was a constant struggle. His example of perseverance is one I will always cherish; he never gave up trying to read. He would usually read and re-read something many times in order to learn what he needed to from those pages of scrambled letters.
Reading has not been easy for me either, but like my dad, I am also persistent. However I have managed the challenges of reading to the point where I am fluent enough to meet the academic rigor required for school, and I even find pleasure in reading as a leisure activity. As a mom I have watched some of my children read well, and some not so well including one who struggles just like my dad. Now as a successful adult, he looks at his own young daughter and hopes that she will not have the same struggle. He understands all too well the pain, humiliation and frustration one feels when reading ability stands in the way of full participation in a learning environment like school.
Learning challenges in my own family prompted my initial interest in special education. Further experiences with my students in school prompted more questions about best practice in reading for children with reading challenges, whether the problem stemmed from the way the students' brains were wired or whether they were struggling with reading while learning English as a second language. So, I sought out best practices as a teacher and as a public school administrator in the areas of assessing reading difficulties and prescribing effective instructional interventions.
I was indeed very blessed in my efforts in that I lived close to the University of Oregon where significant research concerning reading difficulties was being done. In addition, I was able to receive training from well-known reading specialists such as Jerry Tindal, Anita Archer, Ed Kame'enui, and Deb Simmons. As a result, in my role as a school administrator, I was part of an administrative curriculum team, and one of the things we were able to do as a team was to put into place many research-based practices for our district’s reading, special education, title IA, and English as a Second Language programs.
I have been again blessed to have the opportunity to teach at Brigham Young University where I have been an instructor in the special education department and to now be working on literacy projects for English language learners. I continue to learn about effective literacy instruction from my colleagues. My greatest learning experience came when I was asked to write an introductory course in language arts for children with disabilities as part of the coursework for special education teacher candidates. I trained these student in research based methods that are effective for children who are native English speakers and methods that are effective for children who are English language learners; many methods are the same but some are different. As I searched the literature for this course, I was introduced to more of the current theories and concepts in reading instruction for struggling readers. As a result of two years spent developing and researching the methods, tools, and materials for this course, and through many hours of consultation with Dr. Sharp, I am enthusiastically convinced that most struggling readers really can learn to read effectively and efficiently.
As part of the team at R.I.S.E., I bring expertise in assessment, diagnosing learning challenges, identifying effective literacy instruction, program administration and research that will help support our Super Hero Training Center goal of supporting the literacy development of our neighbors and our community. Being part of a team that can offer such a gift is an honor, especially because I understand so well what it means and how it can change lives.