Reading and Riding: A Summer Language-Literacy Camp for At-Risk Adolescents It is a bright summer North Carolina morning and the temperature is steadily increasing. The sun is nearly blinding as it reflects off the metal roof of the nearby riding ring. Three teenagers, all African American young men, get a brief respite from the heat around a conference table in ... Features
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Features  |   September 01, 2005
Reading and Riding: A Summer Language-Literacy Camp for At-Risk Adolescents
Author Notes
  • Blackley Sandie Barrie, is a clinical educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she coordinates the Department of Education’s personnel preparation grant on language-literacy and juvenile delinquency. She also has a private practice, The Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, focusing on language-literacy disorders, and is a National Language Trainer for Sopris West, Inc. Contact her at sbblackl@uncg.edu.
    Blackley Sandie Barrie, is a clinical educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she coordinates the Department of Education’s personnel preparation grant on language-literacy and juvenile delinquency. She also has a private practice, The Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, focusing on language-literacy disorders, and is a National Language Trainer for Sopris West, Inc. Contact her at sbblackl@uncg.edu.×
  • Vicki McCready, is an APT professor and director of the Speech and Hearing Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the director of the fourth year of the Department of Education’s personnel preparation grant on language-literacy and juvenile delinquency. Contact her at cvmccrea@uncg.edu.
    Vicki McCready, is an APT professor and director of the Speech and Hearing Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the director of the fourth year of the Department of Education’s personnel preparation grant on language-literacy and juvenile delinquency. Contact her at cvmccrea@uncg.edu.×
  • Perry Flynn, is a clinical educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the consultant to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in the area of speech-language pathology. He is a North American Riding for the Handicapped Certified Instructor who volunteers at HorsePower Therapeutic Riding Center in Greensboro, NC and serves as director of the Equestrian Sport Development Team for Special Olympics North Carolina. Contact him at pfflynn@uncg.edu.
    Perry Flynn, is a clinical educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the consultant to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in the area of speech-language pathology. He is a North American Riding for the Handicapped Certified Instructor who volunteers at HorsePower Therapeutic Riding Center in Greensboro, NC and serves as director of the Equestrian Sport Development Team for Special Olympics North Carolina. Contact him at pfflynn@uncg.edu.×
Article Information
Development / Normal Language Processing / Features
Features   |   September 01, 2005
Reading and Riding: A Summer Language-Literacy Camp for At-Risk Adolescents
The ASHA Leader, September 2005, Vol. 10, 11-12. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.10132005.11
The ASHA Leader, September 2005, Vol. 10, 11-12. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.10132005.11
It is a bright summer North Carolina morning and the temperature is steadily increasing. The sun is nearly blinding as it reflects off the metal roof of the nearby riding ring. Three teenagers, all African American young men, get a brief respite from the heat around a conference table in the air-conditioned mobile office next to the stables. The young men, wearing casual hats and jackets, are bending over the portfolios prepared for them by three graduate students. This is the “Investors’ Roundtable” where each youth will have the opportunity to “invest” in the mock purchase of one of two horses: Aptitude or Fusaichi Pegasus. One of these horses actually won the Kentucky Derby several years ago; the other came in second. Today, these urban teenagers will read the history of each horse, examine bloodlines, developmental and training histories, and racing records. Then they will each sign a mock contract for the purchase of “their” horse. When they return to the Roundtable they will watch the running of this Kentucky Derby and learn how well they invested.
This summer camp is a clinical practicum for speech-language pathology graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro who have been awarded traineeships under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Vicki McCready, project director, wrote this four-year grant with Jacqueline Cimorelli, who is now retired. The practicum site is The Juvenile Structured Day Program (JSDP), a court-alternative program for 6th-9th graders in Guilford County, NC.
McCready and Sandie Barrie Blackley, project coordinator, and their graduate student trainees have provided language-literacy services at JSDP for the last three school years and have conducted a language-literacy camp each summer. Consistent with national statistics, about 70% of these adjudicated adolescents are struggling readers, scoring below the 25th percentile on standardized tests of reading skills. Although some of the students have been identified as having learning disabilities through their public school, many remain unidentified and untreated.
An Equestrian Twist
During the school year JSDP students attend an alternative public school program administered through the Guildford County Public Schools but located in the JSDP facility in a downtown government building. Students who are enrolled over the summer attend a summer program at the facility designed to provide a high degree of structure and behavioral supports. The summer language-literacy camp is designed to articulate with the JSDP summer program to:
  • develop a program model for adolescents with literacy impairments in the juvenile justice system that emphasizes community collaboration; and

  • provide a summer literacy program that offers much-needed summer intervention services for at-risk or adjudicated youth

In 2003 and 2004, the 10-day UNCG language-literacy camp was held in the windowless government building. Literacy centers were used to foster language-literacy skills, using evidence-based principles (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004), but motivating these at-risk students remained a challenge.
In an effort to build the engagement and motivation that are essential components for intensive literacy practice needed to improve language-literacy skills, the program drew on the concept of a “third space” (Moje et al., 2004; see The Third Space sidebar for a definition). Like most adolescents, these adjudicated youths would be more motivated if the literacy were related to a highly attractive goal.
McCready and Blackley turned to their colleague Perry Flynn for help with creating a “third space"-with an equestrian twist. Flynn, a CSD faculty member, is an experienced equestrian and a certified riding instructor. He also had worked with HorsePower, Inc., a therapeutic horseback riding facility near Greensboro, NC. With the help of additional funding from a JSDP grant and the support of HorsePower, a camp was designed to motivate intensive language-literacy practice in an equestrian “third space.”
A Literacy Focus
Summer camp was the culmination of clinical practicum for graduate trainees. Planning for the camp began in January 2005, with 10 first-year graduate trainees doing most of the content development using what they had learned about teaching language-literacy skills to struggling readers. With the support of the DOE grant, these students began their graduate studies by taking a course related to structured language intervention for language and literacy impairment that taught an intervention with proven effectiveness for adjudicated youth (Greene, 1996). After an introduction to these methods in the classroom, the graduate trainees began supervised clinical practicum using the curriculum with individual clients.
One challenge of the summer language-literacy camp was its short, intensive format. In 2005, there were 38 adolescents enrolled at JSDP. Some of these students had received intervention during the school year, but many were new to the program and had not even been evaluated. The camp had to accommodate all these students while maintaining a motivating literacy focus. Since HorsePower could accommodate no more than 20 campers at a time, the camp was planned for two groups of students attending on alternating days so that each camper attended a total of five days over a 10-day period.
The JSDP students and graduate clinicians were divided into three teams named for famous race horses: Point Given, Giacomo, and Smarty Jones. The teams rotated through three stations. In the Lodge the focus was on “bottom-up” skills (phonological awareness, word reading and spelling, fluency, and vocabulary definitions), whereas in the Conference Room the focus was on “top-down” skills (application of vocabulary and reading comprehension).
Content was organized around the equestrian theme, with a specific learning focus for each of the five days. Each day, six to nine vocabulary words related to the learning focus were introduced. Each student was given an Equestrian Literacy Camp Notebook containing a schedule, rules of conduct, station resources, and an achievement log. As students completed activities in the first two stations they earned points toward a Rider’s Choice award that could be redeemed in the third station: the Riding Ring. Flynn, who supervised the Riding Ring, offered students a range of options for Rider’s Choice awards, such as an extra turn to trot. In addition, the Riding Ring station provided an opportunity to review, consolidate, and apply information gained in the other two stations.
By the end of camp the students had met an average of 95% of their achievement log objectives. But the most impressive outcome was not easily captured by numbers. In stark contrast to the previous summers, these adjudicated youths were usually smiling, even while they were on-task and working hard. On Awards Day the JSDP students surprised their graduate clinicians and HorsePower staff and volunteers with handmade thank-you notes and banners (see example, right). Their formal evaluations suggested that students were motivated by the format of this camp to engage in literacy activities. On their written evaluations, some of the students even included a list of some of the equestrian terms they had learned. Nearly all the JSDP students suggested that the camp should last longer next summer.
However, the language-literacy problems of these adolescents will not be solved in a summer camp format. All the recent research makes it clear that meaningful change in literacy skills of struggling adolescent readers requires the intensive application (i.e., 60–90 minutes a day, five days a week) of an evidence-based, systematic, explicit structured language-literacy method over years, not weeks. For this population, student engagement and motivation for intensive literacy practice was a major barrier, but there may be power in the “third space” to motivate the hard, and sometimes tedious, work that these students need to undertake if they are to gain upper-level literacy skills.
The Third Space

The concept of the third space is somewhat akin to communities of practice in that it involves both a space in which people interact in ways that foster academic engagement. The third space is a hybrid space, apart from the sometimes “angst-ridden” psychological first and second spaces that involve the home, family and friends, and school and academics. The third space is “less a space in which new knowledges are generated and more of a scaffold used to move students through zones of proximal development toward better honed academic or social knowledges” (Moje et al., 2004, p. 43).

References
Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. E. (2004) Reading Next—A Vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance of Excellent Education.
Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. E. (2004) Reading Next—A Vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance of Excellent Education.×
Birsh, J. R. (Ed.). (2000) Multisensory teaching of basic language skills (2nd ed). Baltimore: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.
Birsh, J. R. (Ed.). (2000) Multisensory teaching of basic language skills (2nd ed). Baltimore: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.×
Moje, E. B., Ciechanowski, K. M., Kramer, K., Ellis, L., Carrillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and discourse. Reading Research Quarterly 39,(1), 38–70. [Article]
Moje, E. B., Ciechanowski, K. M., Kramer, K., Ellis, L., Carrillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and discourse. Reading Research Quarterly 39,(1), 38–70. [Article] ×
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September 2005
Volume 10, Issue 13