Literacy Center Helping Local Kids With Reading

At Bethany Lutheran College (BLC), service to the community is an important component of the educational experience. In that spirit, a collection of education students are making a difference by helping young learners in the Mankato area to improve their reading skills.

Bethany Education student Abby Haggenmiller works with a young reader.

In 2022, the Bethany Education Department was awarded a grant from the Mankato Area Foundation for seed funding to bring the idea of a literacy clinic for community students to the BLC campus. The initiative was started by Dr. Carrie Pfeifer, professor in the Education Department, with the goal to provide local, young students needing supplementary reading help free of charge. The Polly Browne Literacy Clinic, named for the for Bethany education professor, is now in its second year of operation and demand for services is exceeding expectations.

While the initial startup grant from the Mankato Area Foundation launched the Browne Clinic in June 2022, additional funding gave a significant boost to the startup through a $93,500 grant from the Sauer Family Foundation based in St. Paul, Minnesota. With the Foundation’s help, the Clinic is able to fully operate for a two-year timeframe through the 2023-24 academic year.

The Clinic operates on the Bethany campus in the Education Department’s lab classroom in Memorial Library. Bethany students facilitate one-on-one meetings with young readers. The meetings are arranged at a time that works for both the Bethany student tutor and the family of the young reader. The students being helped commit to participate in a minimum of two 70-minute sessions per week.

Now, as the second year of the Browne Literacy Clinic is half complete, a large group Bethany students are participating as tutors. Their efforts are producing wonderful results not only for the young learners who are improving their reading skills, but also for the Bethany students who are gaining real-world teaching experience.

Bethany junior education major Calla Alfred is among the Bethany students providing help for the young readers.

“We’re so blessed to be able to provide families and children with reading intervention free of cost. This clinic has helped me tremendously in navigating my future career as an educator and opened my eyes to the many different ways children learn. The tools and strategies I’ve used in the clinic will be extremely useful in my future classroom,” said Alfred.

Parents of the young readers are also very pleased with the help that their children are receiving.

Nichole Schendel said of her daughter Lily’s involvement with the Center, “Lily’s progress has been phenomenal this past year. She has gained so much confidence and has said that she loves reading now! The [Bethany] students are gifted in their approach. After a long day, the last thing my child wants to do is learn more instead of play, but Jordyn makes learning fun and two minutes into session, Lily is laughing and having a great time!

Bethany students have already assisted over 45 children from the Mankato area with reading skills this past semester. The goal is to continue offering the Clinic well into the future and as individual and foundation funding is available to sustain its operation.

By Lance Schwartz, Chief Communication Officer