The Active Reader?
Hi! I'm Kate.
I am The Active Reader.
I like big words, small dogs (well, my small dog), and punctuation.
My favorite thing to do is teach reading, followed closely by... reading.
If your child is showing signs of dyslexia, has difficulty with phonemic awareness, or can't produce handwriting without tears, I can help.
I've been teaching reading for over twenty years, to students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.
I graduated from Smith College in 1993 with a degree in Comparative Religion, because I wanted to direct movies, and all the great film directors seemed preoccupied with religion. So after waiting tables and touring Europe, the US, and Japan with a pop band, I moved to Los Angeles. There I wrote screenplays and (terrible) television, and discovered pretty quickly that writing terrible TV wasn't for me.
One day my friends and I were sitting around talking about what we'd do if we won the lottery, and I found myself saying, "I'd start a school. A fancy prep school like Harvard-Westlake, only with no tuition, so anyone could go there." Maybe I'm getting my dates wrong, but I remember it as being literally within a week that a "Teach Compton" pamphlet arrived in my mailbox. Within a month, I was on track to teach English in Compton, at a failing middle school that had been taken over by the state.
I was going to change the world!
I regret to inform you that the world remained unchanged.
Never have I become so cynical, so quickly. That was the end of my arrogance and the beginning of my education.
I didn't know how to teach kids how to read, especially not kids who were reading well below grade level. I could get them excited about reading, sure. I could read them great books and ask them questions that got them thinking. We could explore the roots of words and understand their connotations, and we could have a great time doing it, but did I know where to start if I were going to teach them to actually read – fluently, accurately, and independently?
No, I did not. But I sure did try.
Shortly after my stint in Compton, I had the unique opportunity to work for a small company that specialized in teaching four-year-olds to read. If you think that sounds like child abuse, I assure you that I did, too... At first. But it was there I began to understand how the foundation for literacy was built, and what it was my students in Compton had lacked: systematic, incremental instruction in how sounds (phonemes) and symbols (graphemes, or "letters") were related.
Because the method we used was so incremental, it was impossible to miss any steps in the process; if a student struggled consistently putting "m" and "a" together to form "ma" as "map," we slowed down until he or she mastered the skill in question. Sounds basic, doesn't it? It is; it is the very definition of "basic": the base upon which everything rests. You would be amazed how frequently that base is not established.
There were no whistles and bells, no puppets or fancy apps, just a simple sequence of manageable skills to master. And for the most part, those kids learned how to read. I say "for the most part" because that was when I realized that reading disabilities could be readily apparent at a very early age.
When reading is taught systematically and continually assessed, it becomes very clear when something is amiss. I still remember an adorable boy who, after twenty hours of instruction, simply could not make the connection between letters and sounds.
I know now that he was dyslexic, and if I could go back in time, I'd tell his mom to get him formally assessed as soon as possible, to be a pain in the a– with the school if she had to be, because whatever time and effort she invested before first grade would be repaid a thousand-fold. Not just in academic success, but in confidence, and self-esteem, and ultimately, in the higher wages that are the provenance of those who read well.
Over the years, I have kept teaching and learning, and am now trained and experienced in several proven intervention programs, including Lindamood-Bell, Words in Color, and F.A.S.T Phonics (now known as Tattum Reading). I completed my advanced practicum training through the IDA-accredited Lexercise Professional Education program, and am a certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Therapist.
In addition to teaching reading, I am also a terrible meditator but an excellent breather, as well as a certified yoga instructor. This background has become part of the Active Reader method, as I integrate yoga and other body-mind practices into my teaching – nothing refreshes a tired brain like a good headstand!
I also love to cook, and am hoping someday to open a dual-language middle school in which all the academic content is taught through food and cooking.
But for now, I just want to teach kids how to read. As many as possible.
I have flexible payment plans, so don't let concerns about money keep you from calling... I promise, I will turn no one away if they are committed to learning. I'm looking forward to meeting you!