Readers at all levels notice benefits from Reading Plus—from advanced readers who at first felt as if they’ve “been there, done that,” to kids who struggle with coursework.
Two St. Thomas More students, both 16, read extensively on their own—and were surpised at the results of a required school program. “At first, I did not enjoy having to participate in structured reading, but it did help increase my reading speed and comprehension,” says Ella Larson. Her classmate Mary Katherine Schlichte adds, “Reading Plus always goes at a pace that is comfortable with each student, and it provides interesting stories.”
After beginning the program, Angela Wilson—a junior who attends a mix of special education and regular classes at Stevens—started to “read nonstop,” according to her mom, Paula. “She’s been reading every night, and advanced four or five levels in one school year,” she says. “It’s a drastic change. Her class participation has increased; she reads to the class; she’s gained confidence. Reading Plus has opened avenues for Angela’s career. When you can read, you can do everything.”
Meet Dr. Arnio
Dr. Arnio’s interest in reading began long before he earned his doctorate in psychology — it started in the one-room schoolhouse in Pluma, near Deadwood. Having the benefit of older sisters who taught him how to read before he went to school, in first grade he used flash cards and other 1950s educational tools to tutor third graders who couldn’t read. After some 50 years of training and education, his passion to help kids to read remains strong. After working with various reading programs, he finally discovered one he believes really can help any student individually. Reading Plus was initially tested in a pilot program at Wilson Elementary School; its success led to other limited trials in several Rapid City schools. Finally, the Rapid City school system implemented the program in all third- through twelfth-grade reading classrooms, beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
“Everyone knows that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, but nobody cares how long it took him,” Dr. Arnio says. “We’ve been measuring processing speeds for a long time, and they’re important when it comes to success in general learning and in a school setting. Students with lower processing speeds have trouble keeping up with group instruction. However, the origin of speed lags is more related to physiology than learning — and it has no relationship to IQ. That means that slow processing speeds do not show up on achievement tests if you’re given enough time to take a test. And in my experience, processing speeds can be improved with the correct interventions.”