From Early Reading Struggles to Bowdoin College: One Student’s Story in RSU#34

Emma Hargreaves, senior at Old Town High School

Written by Brenda Gardner, Gifted & Talented Teacher and and Dr. Sharon Greaney, Reading Educator. Submitted by Jon Doty, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
 at Regional School Unit #34

Reading Recovery is designed to help struggling first graders catch up to their peers in 12 to 20 weeks. Specially trained reading teachers work with students in a one on one setting to meet each child’s individual needs. In RSU #34, about three quarters of these students reach the average of the class by the end of first grade. But we often wonder what happens to these students as they move on. Here is one student’s story.

Emma Hargreaves is currently a senior at Old Town High School and will attend Bowdoin College next year. She remembers being a social butterfly in first grade, always babbling and asking questions but her reading was holding her back. Her mom was worried she wouldn’t be able to catch up. Her parents were happy when she was offered a spot in Reading Recovery. Emma says she doesn’t remember specifics about her lessons, but she does remember how much she adored her one-on-ones with Mrs. St. Louis. Emma says, “I think she taught me how to value progress and how to persevere when a process isn’t linear. Catching up with my peers often felt like two steps forward and one step back. Years later, I know that process is true for almost anything worthwhile, and I am forever thankful to the women who taught me that lesson.”

After a half year of Reading Recovery lessons, Emma says her success went off much like a rocket. She developed a love of reading and advanced to the top reading groups. Emma was identified as gifted and talented. At Old Town High School, Emma has taken all honors and AP classes and is on track to finish with a GPA at or near the top of her class. As president of the National Honor Society, she created a tutoring program to help her peers. Emma is a student leader who has served as a student school board representative as well as student representative to the Chapter 104 advisory committee. She traveled to Washington DC last summer as a representative for Dirigo Girl’s State. She has been published in the Portland Press Herald and Emma says, “Authoring and publishing the work was one of the most scary and rewarding things I have ever done. It was challenging and emotional and I used the same perseverant spirit Mrs. St. Louis and I cultivated way back in first grade to do so.”

Emma concludes that “the potential in everybody exists and the hardship is in its release, not in the question of its presence. Reading Recovery was the beginning of unlocking mine. What I’ve accomplished is much less important than how it has set me up to accomplish more things. Reading Recovery is valuable in its continued and immeasurable effects on its students. Reading Recovery is the beginning of stories of kids like me, and without teachers like Mrs. St Louis, the chapters of those stories would be completely different. You helped me find my voice, and while I can never repay you, I promise to write my life with the lesson you’ve taught me and the confidence you helped unlock.”