Public TV's 'Reading Rockets' to feature SMU program

An SMU program designed to teach cognitively disabled children how to read was featured in the acclaimed Public Television Series “Reading Rockets.”

Patricia Mathes

The episode “A Chance to Read,” narrated by actress Molly Ringwald, aired on Dallas’ KERA on Sept. 2.  Dr. Patricia Mathes, director of the university’s Institute for Reading Research, appeared in the “untapped potential” segment discussing the progress children are making in several Fort Worth Independent School District elementary schools using SMU-developed curriculum.

Mathes is working to debunk the conventional wisdom that children with cognitive disabilities – those with IQs below 70 - cannot learn to read beyond memorizing certain words. Reading ability is key to self-sufficiency and the ability to maintain a job as an adult, and writing these children off is “assumicide,” according to Mathes.

“The assumption was the kids can’t,” Mathes said. “The bottom line is they are learning to read at a slower pace.”

The Fort Worth students participating in the study receive a daily, one-hour reading lesson with a handful of other children.  Teachers are using the same type of approach they use with children of normal intelligence who struggle with problems like dyslexia – but much more slowly, and with constant intervention.

“We're teaching them not just how to read, but how to think through what they read,” Mathes said.  “The curriculum moves in baby steps, but the children actually retain what they learn.”

Other Texas airdates for “A Chance to Read” are:

  • KWBU/Waco: 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2,
  • KLRU/Austin: 12:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3; 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4; and 2 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6

For more information, visit the "Reading Rockets" website.

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