It’s the 20th anniversary of our READ 180 literacy intervention solution. What better way to honor the occasion than by speaking with somebody who used the program in her classroom in the very beginning?
We recently chatted with Betty Lewing, who taught the original READ 180 curriculum and then piloted the enterprise edition. Her career as a teacher at Lufkin Independent School District in Texas and Windham School District (for prisoners in the custody of the Texas Department of Justice) lasted for 24 years; she used READ 180 for seven of those years. She recently answered questions for Shaped not only related to the program itself but also some of her greatest student success stories and why teaching this population of students was so meaningful to her.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Shaped: As a reading intervention teacher, you used READ 180 over several years, including the original version that debuted 20 years ago. At the time, what was so unique about it?
Betty Lewing: It was great to see how quickly the kids in high school who struggled could turn things around. READ 180 had every aspect of learning. They could see it, they could touch it, they could hear it, they could do everything. Some of my students were dyslexic, and it was like suddenly, for the first time, some of them were able to get it. I just saw such outstanding results, and that’s what made me fall in love with it.
Shaped: What is your greatest student success story with READ 180?
Betty: Well, of course Jorvorskie Lane is one—he played football—because he struggled. I saw him come through and turn things around. He was very, very good at playing football, but his grades were not so good. He tried to take the SAT test. Colleges all over the Unites States were offering him scholarships, but if he didn’t pass the SAT, that wasn’t going to be good. The athletic director saw that he hadn’t done well and that he was struggling, so he told him to come and see me. I had him work diligently, and the rest is history. He came up tremendously on the SAT test. His grades got better. He started reading and winning that battle that he had struggled with. And he also is dyslexic. He then went on to get a college scholarship and play football and went on to the NFL. That in itself is certainly a success story.
I also had one little girl who had zero self-esteem. I would take my kids to read to elementary schools and nursing homes and daycares and special education classes. I was just trying to get them reading and get their self-esteem changed—to believe that they could do it. One little girl would cry because she couldn’t read out loud. For this particular child, we would go to a daycare near the school. She was so afraid to read.
What I saw change in this child was amazing because she went in and she said, “What if I mess up?” I said, “Baby, if you mess up, these are little children. It’s okay. They’re going to love the fact that you’re reading to them. If you mess up on something or don’t remember, look at the pictures and tell the story.” I was sitting there with her, and by the time we left that day, this little girl who was so shy asked the lady if she could have a job there. She just started coming out of her shell. That’s two totally different ends of the spectrum, but to me, that was what READ 180 was doing. It was changing her whole aspect on how she saw herself, on believing in herself, on being able to read and share with others. Even though she messed up some, it just turned things around.