Campus: CSU Monterey Bay -- January 24, 2005

$2.4 Million Gift Launches Center for Reading Diagnosis and Instruction

California State University, Monterey Bay, has received a gift of $2.4 million to provide seed money to build and operate a new Center for Reading Diagnosis and Instruction on campus.

The gift, from a donor who has requested anonymity, will allow the university to provide diagnosis, tutoring and instruction to youngsters in kindergarten through 12th grade who struggle with reading; to train students who are studying to be teachers as well as those already in the classroom; and to host a summer institute for educators to share the latest developments and best practices in reading and literacy instruction.

The recently released Rand Corp. report showing that California's fourth- and eighth-graders ranked 48th in the country - above only Mississippi and Louisiana - in reading points to the need for this kind of center in the tri-county area.

"We're talking about youngsters with learning disabilities as well as those who are reading below grade level for other reasons," said Dr. Lou Denti, a professor of special education at CSUMB and director of the center.

When youngsters have problems with reading, their self-esteem is impacted. "Our job will be to provide direct help for children in order to bring them up to speed, to give them the assistance they need to handle their school work as well as enhance their self-esteem," said Dr. Denti.

While a variety of services are currently available to help children who struggle with reading, "We hope to be a neutral ground," said Dr. Denti. "If you look in the Yellow Pages, you're going to find people who are selling a program or a system. We'll tailor practices and methods to the needs of each child - individualize the program for each youngster and his or her family and use evidenced-based approaches to ensure success.

The reading center will provide a comprehensive assessment in order to develop strategies to help a child meet his or her individual reading/literacy needs. The faculty, staff and student interns will be especially sensitive to student and family concerns, always acknowledging a child's strengths to then determine the best instructional plan to meet the child's reading challenges.

Services will be available for English-language learners. Assessments will be done in the child's native language to determine if the child has a reading disability or a language issue that makes reading difficult.

According to Dr. Denti, the university's goal is to be seen as a "valued" service, not just "another" service. "We want to be a partner with the local schools, a resource for classroom teachers who need somewhere to turn for help in dealing with complex reading and literacy issues." The center is a natural extension of the California State University mission of training - initially and with continuing education - the state's teachers.

Fees will be based on a sliding scale; no child will be turned away.

The center will be housed in a renovated building on campus. Plans for the renovation have been drawn up and construction will start as soon as the plans are approved.

CSUMB is the first school in the 23-campus California State University system to house such a center. It is scheduled to open in the summer of 2005 with a weeklong training institute for professionals in reading, language and literacy. The center will accept school-age students from the tri-county area in fall 2006.

Provost Diane Cordero de Noriega led the CSUMB team in the gift process. Denti, the university's Lawton Love Distinguished Professor in Special Education, helped shape the vision for the center. Steve Weldon, the university's director of planned giving, recognized the importance of the donor's professional advisers. "These two outstanding advisers introduced us to the donor, and worked very closely with our university team on this sophisticated gift planning."

"We are thrilled and honored by this magnificent gift which will have an extraordinary regional impact. This gift provides the crucial seed funds to launch this program, which will change lives for generations to come," Peter Smith, president of CSUMB, said in accepting the gift.

For more information, call Dr. Denti at 247-5923.

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