This Fall 2017, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation provided a $50,000 grant so that students can receive high-quality tutoring at the Reading Clinic and tutors can receive state-of-the-art training. To date, over 9 years, Dollar General has donated $450,000, an extraordinary contribution providing extraordinary support for struggling student readers and tutors at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic.
“This wonderful gift is making it possible for students struggling with dyslexia or other reading or cognitive disabilities to learn to read,” said the Reading Clinic’s faculty director Laurie Cutting, Ph.D., Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Special Education, Psychology, Radiology, and Pediatrics. “It also makes it possible for teachers in training to become effective reading instructors. They will go on to teaching careers where they will teach so many other students to read, and they will know how to help struggling readers.”
Last year the VKC Reading Clinic provided 86 students with 1,376 hours of tutoring by 49 tutors.
The grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation makes tutoring possible for students whose families otherwise could not afford such services. The level of scholarship support is on a sliding scale related to family income.
“More than half the students enrolled receive some level of scholarship support,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., VKC UCEDD co-director. “A family may receive a scholarship for multiple semesters or sessions, providing a great foundation for students to become readers.”
While some Reading Clinic tutors are experienced, certified teachers, others are Vanderbilt graduate students in a variety of disciplines—Special Education, Teaching and Learning, Child Development, Hearing and Speech Sciences. The grant from Dollar General helps support intensive training for tutors.
A grateful parent writes of her son’s experience in the Reading Clinic, “He has progressed so much in his reading since he has started sessions and has even improved in speech overall because of it. Before he came [to the VKC Reading Clinic], he was reading one year below his grade level and now he is caught up and reading at his grade level. We are beyond thankful for scholarships that allow my son to be a part of such an amazing program.”
With its gifts to the VKC Reading Clinic, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation is having a lifelong impact of the reading literacy, which Dollar General’s gift this year and in years past have made possible. Several students with Down syndrome—students whose teachers doubted they could learn to read—have become readers thanks to the excellent tutoring of the Reading Clinic. In turn, they have been able to go to college—attending Next Steps at Vanderbilt, the inclusive higher education program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that the Kennedy Center founded. Those students have now completed their two years of study and job internships and are working at places like Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the YMCA, and Home Depot.
“This gift from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation is changing lives, today and in the future,” Cutting said.
The Reading Clinic uses an evidence-based direct, systematic, multisensory approach in the one-to-one tutoring sessions. The Clinic serves students from kindergarten through 8th grade, including students with developmental disabilities. The Clinic can be contacted at (615) 936-5118, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is because of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation that the Reading Clinic is able to continue providing such an amazing resource to the community,” said McMillan. “We express our gratitude to Dollar General!”
Jan Rosemergy is VKC deputy director and director of Communications and Dissemination.