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New Reading Recovery program helps struggling students

November 30, 2018 - Points of Pride

Students who are struggling to keep up with their classmates in reading, hopefully won’t be for long. Hillsborough County is one of two school districts in the state whose Reading Recovery Teacher Leader in Training received a scholarship to establish the first Reading Recovery site in the district.

Woodson Leadership Academy is launching the program for our district.

“We’re very excited! Dr. Carter G. Woodson PK-8 Leadership Academy: Home of Reading Recovery,” said Woodson Principal Ovett Wilson.

This school year, Woodson teacher, Mary Vreeman received a $15,000 Teacher Leader Training Scholarship from the Reading Recovery Council of North America (RRCNA). Only six scholarships were awarded across the country. 

“It is a one-on-one intervention program for our first graders who are very much below level, and our intention is in a short amount of time to catch them up to their classmates,” said Mary Vreeman, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader in Training.

Here’s how it works: it’s a 12- to 20-week intervention program. Vreeman is working with four students, one-on-one for 30 minutes each day and will continue the program with other students throughout the school year.

“They might exit at 12 weeks. They might exit at 20 weeks. As those students exit, we’re bringing in students who are struggling to keep up with their peers,” said Vreeman.

“Mary was chosen as a scholarship recipient due to her extensive knowledge and expertise in literacy instruction and program management.  We are very proud of the work she is doing and appreciative of the support from the Woodson K-8 administrative team,” said Lynn Dougherty-Underwood, Director of K-12 Literacy with our district’s Office of Teaching and Learning.

Vreeman is now attending classes at National Louis University for a year of studies focusing on how best to help first graders who are struggling with beginning reading and writing, like Woodson first grade student, Iden. “We do cut-up sentences, writing and reading,” said Iden. He’s now participating in the Reading Recovery program.

“Being able to have Reading Recovery here is one of the things that will help our first graders. Those are the foundation years. Helping our first graders, it builds and everything after that is a success,” said Principal Wilson.

Vreeman’s studies are part of a program that will qualify her to be a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader to train other teachers. It will have a ripple effect throughout our district as additional teachers in more schools learn about Reading Recovery.

“It’s so important because there’s no other program around that customizes one-on-one the needs of each child. I’m learning the process, studying it, and then applying it to my students. Next year, we will have teachers from our district, and they’ll get an entire year of training from me,” Vreeman said.

“We are leading the way – the seed of something that will be great, something that can impact many other schools. Having this as the foundation year and having it as the pilot school, we’re very honored to have that,” Principal Wilson said.

Woodson had a large, two-way mirror installed in the Reading Recovery room with a speaker and seating to allow other teachers to watch Vreeman’s lessons.

“Not only is it about working with the students one-on-one, but it’s allowing other educators to come in and see what those kinds of strategies look like,” said Vreeman.

“We call it the window of opportunity, because in that room that’s exactly what we’re going to give kids – the opportunity to read well and stay academically focused,” said Wilson.

Sarasota County has been a Reading Recovery site for four years and has 34 Reading Recovery teachers in 23 elementary schools.

Vreeman is looking forward to growing the program in Hillsborough County and is already seeing progress with her Reading Recovery students.

“It’s magical the way you can watch the transformation of children,” said Vreeman.

“I know more about reading books, because she told me to read them, and I’m now good at reading books,” said Iden.

More than 2.4 million struggling first-grade readers and writers in North America over the past three decades have benefitted from the one-on-one teaching expertise of Reading Recovery leaders.

Funds for the scholarships are provided by The James P. Verhalen Family Foundation, Hameray Publishing Group/Yuen Family Foundation, Pioneer Valley Books and MaryRuth Books. The awards are administered by the RRCNA.

Literacy is the core of the curriculum in Hillsborough County Public Schools and the District has launched an ongoing initiative to continually improve our approach to literacy – Read. Write. Now. Our focus is on strengthening current foundational literacy efforts and seeking innovative methods to better support our students. For more information about the Read.Write.Now. Literacy Initiative, visit or follow us on Twitter:

For more information about the Reading Recovery Program, visit:

To see the latest events happening at Dr. Carter G. Woodson PK-8 Leadership Academy, follow the school on twitter: and

For more information about Woodson Leadership Academy:

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