McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic
There are a number of reading programs for students in Santa Barbara, including several administered by nonprofits. Tina Hansen McEnroe is absolutely clear about what makes the McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic at the Gevirtz School at the University of California, Santa Barbara, stand out from all the rest.
“How are we different? It’s very simple, very straightforward, very honest, and direct,” she said. “The clinic is part of a great research university. We teach teachers how to teach reading. Nobody else does that.”
McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic serves children in grades 1-8, who receive intensive, research-based instruction in skills and practices related to fluency, reading comprehension, and various forms and modalities of writing and presenting, encompassing various content areas with a particular focus on STEM-related disciplines. The clinic’s instructors are upper division undergraduates, graduate students, or professional teachers who are committed to working with families in strengthening the literacy skills of children, so the parents are in constant communication with instructors as the child continues to develop and strengthen their abilities to make sense of ever-more challenging texts.
The quality of the program is at a very high level because the teachers themselves are continuing their own education with cutting-edge research-based methods that are the product of Gevirtz’s outstanding faculty.
“It’s our director at the clinic who is teaching the graduate students’ literacy course and teaching these teachers how to teach reading,” McEnroe said.
McEnroe, who co-founded the Reading and Language Arts Clinic with her husband a dozen years ago, has a background in educational research herself, via an M.Ed. and two teaching credentials, one as a reading specialist, earned at UCSB. She can recall a time that ended in the early 1990s when the state had a program that provided ample funding for reading clinics throughout the state, and how challenging things have been since.
“It became very, very difficult for young women and men who went into education to really have that kind of thorough knowledge, the pedagogy in the language arts and literacy,” she said. “These kinds of classes went by the wayside. It turned into literacy teachers going, ‘Well I know how to read and write, so therefore I can teach.’”
Not so, McEnroe said.
“It’s a science and it’s an art,” she explained. “Every child is unique and different, and it’s really important to do a thorough probe into what makes that child tick, what motivates that child. That’s the heart of teaching, and it’s not easy.”
The McEnroe clinic is designed to serve the community’s most vulnerable youth by supporting local schools who are facing multiple issues via an instructional framework that also aligns with both current and new standards (e.g., the California-adopted Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the new national reading assessment standards), which collectively inform K-12 education for post-secondary preparation. The clinic’s overarching framework addresses these standards by providing young students with opportunities to practice in-depth discussions about challenging texts and including hands-on, authentic experiences that support language and literacy development such as the creation of a book publication.
Even before the pandemic, the need for literacy support had been growing, and the McEnroe clinic has stepped up, serving many more local youths with additional community support. But the need continues to grow.
“The crux of all education is reading,” McEnroe said, explaining why the core of the clinic’s fundraising effort focuses on securing scholarships for students of lower-income families who attend public schools.
Fortunately, the formula is working, both on campus at UCSB and off-site at the Harding School on the West Side, part of McEnroe clinic’s community outreach program and one of the clinic’s primary partners. In recent years, Harding students that have been part of the program have shown marked increase in the desire to read, according to the school’s principal, and last year’s fourth-grade class scored higher in reading testing than any previous cohort.
In fact, it’s been such a success that Harding has asked the clinic to come to the campus to train its teachers, McEnroe said.
“They’re seeing what great work we do and the progress we make with their students that come to us,” she said. “So we are going into the school this fall, teaching their teachers how to teach reading, which we are very proud of,” she said.
McEnroe’s desire is that every young student in town could have the same opportunities.
“Everybody’s children should be able to catch up and excel in the language arts,” she said. “You can tell I’m super passionate about this. But it’s just so important.”
The Tina Hansen & Paul V. McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic
Tina Hansen McEnroe, Founder and Associate Director