Reading Research Center Created at A&M International

Texas A&M International University continues to expand its research capabilities as well as its services to the community at large. The College of Education has established a Reading Research Center using a $460,443 grant from the U. S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) Program.

Dr. Rosa María Vida, dean of the College of Education, said the grant will have a large impact on the University.

"It will allow A&M International to provide much needed information to the educational community here in Laredo as well as across the United States through the Reading Research Center. We're very excited to receive these funds, allowing the University to become a vanguard of research and assistance in the area of reading education," she said.

The Center opened on June 1 and is managed and administered by Dr. Idalia Rodríguez Pérez, project director and associate professor of education. The Center's research project, analyzing the multiple reading problems experienced by language minority students who learn English as a second language, will be completed by July 2003. The Center will continue to serve as a training facility for area educators and students in the College of Education. Currently housed in Building C on the University campus, the restructuring of existing facilities will be completed by November 2001.

Dr. Pérez explained that the Center's mission is to conduct the empirical research and evaluation needed to transform linguistically and culturally diverse students from non-readers to skilled readers. She said this will reduce the risk of educational failure and premature entry into low-wage jobs.

"It is exciting because the Center will provide scientifically-based research data about language minority student reading programs to prospective teachers, practitioners, researchers and the community. We will be able to identify causal factors that keep language minority students from becoming skilled readers and diagnose, prescribe and remediate reading difficulties through clinical experiences, observations and demonstrations in a setting with updated materials and state-of-the-art technology," Pérez noted.

Research has shown that the greatest gap in reading achievement is at the fourth-grade level, particularly among Hispanic students, Pérez said. A national study in 1998 reported that 52 percent of fourth-grade Hispanic students were not able to understand texts at the literal level, and only 15 percent of these fourth-graders were able to show an overall understanding at the inferential level, she said.

The Center will create an extensive database relating to the reading achievement of area fourth-graders, Pérez said, adding that the Center will be of great interest to all educators and researchers.

"It will become a focal point for national research in reading-related issues and a center for resources and technical assistance for reading teachers, not only in the greater Laredo area, but also educators across the country," she explained.

For further information on the Reading Research Center at A&M International, please contact Pérez at 326.2678, visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 334A, or email her at University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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