Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

College of Education wages new battle for literacy

Video tutorials beamed to child care workers’ iPods is one of the newest weapons in the College of Education’s invigorated war to promote words. 

The source of the Podcasts is the soon-to-be-formed Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, which will produce 10-minute iPod segments on how to encourage and extend preschool children’s use of language. The intent is that early learning and daycare providers will watch the videos, practice the strategies, then be coached on how to use the techniques. 

“Kids are coming into school with much more limited vocabularies,” says Ginger Maloney, dean of the College of Education. “If we can get to kids in preschool, we have a chance of having them start school at the same level as their peers from more affluent families.” 

The college’s drive to enhance language and literacy in children is being sparked by a recently announced $10 million gift from philanthropists Carrie and John Morgridge, whose donation is helping create the literacy institute. 

Half the gift and at least $500,000 from the University will fund an institute director and endow a professorship to launch the video project and other educational initiatives. 

Additionally, the funding will establish a region-wide Reading Recovery University Training Center to help teachers working in Reading Recovery, a one-on-one tutoring program that helps struggling readers in first grade. 

“There isn’t a local training center to train those teachers,” Maloney says, adding that the institute also will conduct literacy-related research and establish partnerships with educational groups in the community. 

The other half of the Morgridges’ gift will go toward a $35 million fundraising campaign to support endowment and construct a new building for the College of Education. The Morgridges will co-chair the campaign and the college will be named the Morgridge College of Education in recognition of their gift. 

“There are very few named colleges of education,” Maloney says. “This puts us in a national spotlight.” 

The Morgridges have donated to a multitude of organizations in Colorado — including the Denver Public School Foundation, Mile High United Way and Children’s Hospital — and to scholarship and educational programs in other states, as well. 

The $25 million building will be located on the north side of East Evans Avenue between High and Race streets. 

The structure will be contained by a brick and metal wall and include a sculpture garden and green space near the entrance on Race Street, according to preliminary plans. 

Groundbreaking is dependent on the fundraising effort, Maloney says. Nevertheless, she says, it could happen as soon as summer, and architects have estimated 16 to 18 months construction thereafter. 

Establishing the literacy institute, however, is not dependent upon completing the building and will be pursued as soon as possible, she says. 

“Early literacy and language development have both been key to our development as a college of education,” she says. “We’ve tried to focus upon closing the access and achievement gaps that continue to plague schools.” 

The access gap means making educational, mental health and information services as easily available to poor or minority students as to more affluent Americans. The achievement gap pertains to academic differences, some of which are driven by language deficiency. 

The College of Education has 775 students in 22 degree, licensure and certificate programs that include Child, Family and School Psychology; Counseling Psychology; Curriculum and Instruction; Educational Administration; Higher Education; and Library and Information Science. The college aims to expand to 850 students after the new building is completed. 

“We want to be a world class college of education,” Maloney says.  

This article originally appeared in
The Source, February 2007.

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