When your child struggles to read and write, you’ll do anything to get them the help they need. Unfortunately, the one-teacher-one-student model of literacy intervention makes it unaffordable to most, says Kait Feriante, CEO of Redwood Literacy, a Chicago-based literacy organization.
“Historically, intervention is delivered by highly qualified specialists with a lot of expertise,” Feriante says. “It’s also been highly privatized and there aren’t enough providers for the demand.” The tragic reality, she says, is that individual tutoring can cost up to $150 an hour — that’s $10,000-$15,000 a year — for life-changing intervention that many children need to be able to read and write.
But there’s an innovative small-group model that, when carefully curated by age and instructional level, provides the same results at a fraction of the cost of individual tutoring. “This brings the cost down to less than 50% of a private tutor. We offer financial aid which brings the cost down further so that families can benefit from intervention with a 90% reduction in cost,” says Feriante.
Similar to the small-group instruction model practiced in Redwood Day School, the virtual literacy intervention small group gathers no more than three or four students of similar age and skill level to provide intensive support for reading, writing and math. “The goal is to help kids build their foundational skills to a higher level to help them catch up to the range where they can access the rest of the content they’ll work on in school,” she says. “We measure to make sure they make more than one year of progress each year to close the gap. That’s always the goal.”
Some students will make four or five years of progress, while others may take four years to close the gap, but the average gain is 1.8 grade levels in 10 months with sessions twice weekly.
Power of small-group literacy support
Each new student receives an individual consultation through Zoom, where a skilled instructor reviews their IEP and administers assessments to get a baseline, Feriante explains. “The parent or school receives a written report within 10 business days, with test results and analysis and a professional intervention recommendation,” she says. Then, students are carefully matched with their instructor and small group.
Most students are in third through sixth grades, but Redwood Literacy welcomes students from kindergarten through adult.
Feriante’s own daughter is in first grade and participates in small-group instruction for 75 minutes twice a week. “She has her own little station in my office with her supplies, which include a whiteboard and document camera. She logs in two evenings a week with two other kids her age,” she explains. “Our instructors are well-trained for student engagement. They give movement breaks and they know what the students love. There’s intentionality in how they draw the students in and build relationships between everyone.”
After several months, Feriante’s daughter laughs and shouts out word spellings. She’s willing to read out loud for the first time.
The small-group community buffers against the isolation and loneliness children with learning differences often feel in the classroom. “In a small group, students feel safe and more courageous in their learning. They don’t feel as anxious when they don’t understand,” Feriante says. “It’s a really effective way to deliver instruction and give access to community with those on the same journey, all from their own homes.”
Redwood Literacy makes it easy to get started. “We are transparent about who we are and what we do,” she says. “We want parents to know that virtual small groups really work. We are data- driven and families are happy with our service because they’re seeing their kids read for the firsttime. It’s life-transforming.”
Learn more about Redwood Literacy. Visit redwoodliteracy.com.