Hitting the Books
The Texas A&M University Clinic for Advanced Literacy Studies provides future Aggie educators with experience tutoring young readers.
- By Jeannie Ralston
- Illustration by Mary Kate McDevitt
- May. 15, 20235 min read
Everyone loves a win-win scenario. But the Texas A&M University Clinic for Advanced Literacy Studies delivers something even better: the rare win-win-win. Through the clinic, which began in 2001, undergraduates in the School of Education and Human Development tutor kindergarteners through eighth graders in the Bryan and College Station school systems to help them become better readers.
These Aggie student volunteers are doing more than your standard story time—they’re applying skills learned in their literacy classes to help young readers become confident in their literacy and comprehension. The reading clinic promises benefits for future Aggie educators, the students they mentor and the local school systems they support through their wholehearted community service.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practical experience is essential for any teacher. Most educators get this experience through a combination of coursework and student teaching opportunities. But the reading clinic allows Aggies to train even before they start their student teaching, which classifies them as “pre-service.”
“Pre-service teachers often lack what we call pedagogical knowledge, the understanding of how to apply their content knowledge in the classroom,” said Dr. Alida Hudson ’07 ’21, the clinic’s director. “Through real-world experience, they learn how to take what they’re learning from their textbook or their coursework and apply it to create a lesson and teach a child.”
Participating undergraduates vouch for the program’s benefits. “This clinic helped give me the tools to feel like a real teacher,” one aspiring educator reported. “I knew what to teach and how to teach it.”
Closing the Gap
Last year, the clinic helped about 120 school-aged children by offering various services, including reading assessments and research-based instructional strategies to address their needs in decoding and spelling, vocabulary development, oral reading fluency and reading comprehension. University faculty and staff supervise all tutors, guiding the young educators toward success. “Our pre-service teachers learn how to look at an assessment, observe a child's strengths and weaknesses and use what they know from their course to plan instruction,” Hudson explained.
The clinic offers two avenues of experience for pre-service teachers. First, tutoring is provided for a fee at the clinic’s facility in the Charlotte Sharp Children’s Center. Thanks to generous support for the clinic, though, tuition costs may be waived for some children based on financial eligibility.
Secondly, the clinic partners with local elementary schools to offer tutoring at no cost during the school day. Many of the students who participate in the school-day tutoring program are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and do not come from “literacy rich” households.
To help children maintain their literacy skills over the summer, the clinic will also offer a tutoring program over the break. Educators often find that student skills regress over the summer when children are not in school, and the program will offer a bridge to keep readers on track.
Helping the Schools
Recent data shows that schools everywhere have suffered during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns, and local school systems have appreciated the Aggie tutors’ support. “They’re very open to having the additional help in their classrooms,” Hudson reported. “Just yesterday, I received an email from a principal saying, ‘I heard you were doing this, and I want to be involved too.’”
The summer program aims to provide much-needed support for local educators by keeping students’ literacy skills in shape. “As a teacher, you’re taking kids from point A to point Z over the school year,” Hudson shared. “But when the next year begins, you’re often not starting where you left off and have to go back. That’s a strain for any teacher.”
Hudson hopes the clinic can one day expand to help students beyond the Bryan-College Station community. “ln the future, we're looking at offering virtual tutoring to reach more children across the state,” she said. But for now, the clinic is focused on preparing undergraduates to realize their potential as teachers and assisting local students and schools in the process. “Being high-quality and creating good teachers,” Hudson said, “that’s what we pride ourselves on at Texas A&M.”