Reading Clinic observes 50th anniversary as TU Literacy Center expands outreach

By Jan Lucas on July 6, 2017

Founded in 1967 and opened in 1968, the Reading Clinic provides internships for TU students — primarily experienced classroom teachers — who are in the final stages of the university’s graduate reading education program.

The learners range from first graders to grandparents — and everyone in between. At Towson University’s Reading Clinic, they acquire the skills they need to flourish in the classroom, in the workplace and in their everyday lives.

Founded in 1967 and opened in 1968, the Reading Clinic provides internships for TU students — primarily experienced classroom teachers — who are in the final stages of the university’s graduate reading education program.

Today, under the umbrella of services now called the TU Literacy Center, the clinic continues the good work educators initiated a half-century ago.

Reading Clinic internships enable grad students to hone the teaching skills they’ll need as reading specialists while benefiting people from all walks of life.

“Entire families learn strategies that help them continue to develop literacy skills,” says Shelly Huggins, director of the Reading Clinic and the TU Literacy Center.

“The clinic is the oldest outreach effort on campus and the most diverse,” Huggins adds. “People find us through recommendations or teachers, many of whom are Reading Clinic alumni.

“We have great word-of-mouth.”

And no wonder: the Reading Clinic offers up-to-date techniques; one-on-one evaluation and tutoring; one-hour sessions; family literacy initiatives; home activities; a lending library; the opportunity to discuss concerns with education professionals; an end-of-term list of recommendations; and opportunities to meet parents/guardians with similar concerns.    

An $80 fee covers at least 10 sessions, and Huggins says low-income families can apply for scholarships supported through the clinic’s foundation account.

Huggins points with pride to stories about clients who contacted the clinic many years after their Reading Clinic sessions to recount how the experience changed their lives. “They often identified a reading strategy they learned here and still use,” she says. “They date their academic confidence to that time.”

She also tells of a man who worked construction but lacked the literacy and test-taking skills to obtain a driver’s license. “He wanted to grow his drywall business but had to take public transportation to job sites,” she explains.  

“With the help of the Reading Clinic’s literacy tutors, he accomplished his goal in one 10-week session,” Huggins says. “We have a photo of him at the MVA with his driver’s license.

“Experiences like that affirm our belief that we change lives though literacy every day.”

With the establishment of the TU Literacy Center, Huggins says the College of Education allows the expansion of services to children and adults at schools and other sites.  

“The Reading Clinic is tied to enrollment in the graduate program, and that limits it in term of outreach,” she says. “The TU Literacy Center enables us to offer a variety of low-cost, effective literacy support to a more diverse population. We can go off campus since there’s no longer a need to fulfill a course requirement.

“Through the TU Literacy Center, we’ve been able to work with people with dysgraphia (the inability to write coherently) and autism,” she continues. “We’ve also assisted refugees who are learning to read English.” 

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland