22 years of literacy teaching- Robyn's Story
By Nat Power
A boy in Grade 2 ignited 22 years of literacy teaching for the student body of a local Victorian state school. Can you imagine? Robyn Daley was the Religious Education teacher at a primary school in Melbourne's south when she noticed Aaron couldn't read. It wasn't that he couldn't recognise words, he couldn't read the alphabet. She believed this was simply not good enough and took her concerns to the Principal, sharing her goal to help students learn to read. The Principal embraced her enthusiasm and told her there were other students he thought could benefit from a reading program. They ran a successful pilot program with 4 students and 10 Rotary volunteers, The Reading Program was born, it was 1993.
Robyn understood quickly that the most benefit for students came from consistency of learning, one on one attention and dedicated, daily practice. The volunteers from Rotary were mostly retired women who had time on their hands, hearts of gold and exercised a perfect patience for kids to develop at their own pace. The Reading Program was making a huge difference in students’ learning ability beyond reading.Previously, students with learning difficulties were notorious because they couldn't complete class tasks and were bored, they were routinely acting out.Teachers noticed that student behavioural issues in the classroom also lessened in response to the success of The Reading Program, kids were engaged.
The growth of The Reading Program demanded that Robyn outsource her Religious Ed teaching obligations and focus completely on co-ordinating some 30 volunteers and over 20 students per week. Robyn was a volunteer herself and she managed the literacy requirements of the most needy students while raising her own children. She told me, ‘it was ultimately satisfying watching children develop literacy skills and, [as an aside] their posture changed as they gained confidence in their learning.’
Reading ability propels a student from one class level to the next. Young students sometimes trudge through literacy learning because they have to but when the scales tip from the education syllabus to independent learning, the pursuit of curiosity and control of choice is a powerful enabler. In Robyn’s time, 450 students were recipients of literacy assistance, the next generation of readers are now unleashed.