Reading Connections offers hope for those with reading problems
By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – At Reading Connections people who had trouble reading can get a new outlook on life.
Mary Bowers has 31 years of experience teaching people who have had difficulty learning how to read.
She estimates the total number of people she has helped at close to 7,000.
“Our son Aaron was the impetus behind this, because even though I did everything you were supposed to do to teach a child to read, including reading to him every day, he wasn’t reading at the end of second grade,” Bowers said.
As a second grade teacher in Seymour herself, this lead Bowers to look for answers outside of the classroom.
A friend told her about a program at UW-Oshkosh called Project Success that taught a different approach to reading comprehension.
“My son gained three years in three months, but I worked with him every day and I found it laborious, because there was so much other stuff you had to know,” Bowers said.
She eventually found ways to make the program more efficient and used it in her classroom for 10 years before being told by administration that it didn’t gel with the curriculum and she had to stop.
So Bowers started Reading Connections. The business had been at three different locations in Ashwaubenon for the past 20 years, but just last week opened in Hobart.
There are essentially two different types of people, left brain and right brain.
Left brain people learn to read the normal way.
“It will just come automatically because your brain sees a word, and takes it apart, one sound and letter combination at a time,” she said. “Your brain will automatically store that information. The more of the letters and sounds that are stored, the higher level of automatic reading you have.”
For right brain people the process is different.
“If your verbal sequential left hemisphere is not your dominant hemisphere and your right visual spatial hemisphere is your boss, you need to have an instruction base on how that processing occurs. So that’s what we do, we do what the left hemisphere does automatically for the right hemisphere.”
It’s all biology. People are they way they are. But learning reading in schools is geared for students with a left brain.
That can negatively impact the learning process for children who see and process information differently.
“It isn’t a disease or sickness or anything,” Bowers said. “This disability is created because of the instruction, because the instruction does not match this visual spatial processing.”
Bowers knows her reading program, based on instruction in phonemic awareness works.
As part of a grant, from 2001 to 2004 Reading Connections went into juvenile detention facilities and worked with 2,000 juveniles to improve their reading.
She said the rate of recidivism dropped as more kids learned how to read.
Currently Reading Connections works with a number of people referred to them by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
The makeup of people they help is about 50 percent children and 50 percent adults.
A scientific study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development also showed this system will literally rewrite neurological pathways of poor readers to function like those of good readers.
“I still see children when they come here they look so sad, they’re looking down at the floor, ‘Yeah here’s another reading program, I’ve been through all these others.’ But within a matter of weeks that almost always changes,” Bowers said. “There would be very few children we cannot help.”
Bowers is president and CEO of Reading Connections, her husband Rick is the chief financial officer.
“If they’re verbal, they can see and hear sounds, and they can write, we can teach them to read,” Rick said.
Reading Connections is located at 560 Centennial Centre Blvd. Rick and Mary can be reached at 865-1001.
There is also a website located at www.rcinc.org.
As a not-for-profit organization Reading Connections is also looking for support to teach more children. “This is something that if the community helped, we would be grateful to help more kids,” Mary said.