Deivi Santizo remembers what it was like. She came to America from Guatemala with her family when she was only 4. When she started school, her lessons were in English — not her native Spanish.
“I struggled a lot with reading,” Santizo said. “Some of the words were very hard. It's not my language.”
But she worked hard, pressed ahead and now teaches elementary students. This summer, she spent time with children who reminded her of herself: a struggling reader.
“Never give up,” Santizo said. “That's what I want them to understand.”
The Oklahoma City school district, like many districts across the state, is giving extra attention to young children who can't read well. This summer, the district hosted a free, two-week reading camp for students who will be in third grade this fall.
This coming school year will be key for those children. This is the first group to be affected by a new law that requires third-graders to read on grade level, or be held back.
In Oklahoma City, about half of third-graders aren't reading on grade level.
“A lot of remediation right now is the key to these kids reading on grade level,” said Teri Brecheen, executive director of literacy and early childhood education for the state Education Department. “... I hope for the children's sake that the districts are doing the reading research and doing the correct intervention.”
With the right intervention, as many as 98 percent of children can read on level with their peers, Brecheen said.
Third grade is a turning point for many students, she said. Nearly all children who aren't reading with their peers by that age will never catch up.
There will be some wiggle room for children with special needs. The law allows for six exemptions, such as disabilities.
But most students who are behind will have to catch up.
Oklahoma City officials are planning interventions throughout the year for students who are behind, said Pat Hunt, executive director of elementary education.
But one of the solutions was the summer camp.
At Heronville Elementary, Santizo paced quietly around student desks. They were working on vocabulary.