By Kelsey Ryan
JOPLIN, Mo. —
For Kaleb Hansen, an eighth-grade student at South Middle School who has autism, reading has been a challenge.
But with a new reading intervention program at South called Read 180, Kaleb has gone from a second-grade reading level to a sixth-grade reading level in about two years. As a result, he has been named a national Scholastic Inc. Read 180 award winner out of more than 400 nominations nationwide.
“I didn’t know if I was going to win, but I’m ready,” Kaleb said. “I surprised myself.”
The Read 180 program helps students like Kaleb with their reading comprehension skills, said his English teacher, Tashena Vickers. Students can read about different topics and use computers to learn and to play games that improve comprehension.
“We’ve had wild success with the program,” Vickers said. “The kids themselves get excited. You know it’s a good one if the students get excited about it. Reading gives him more options and skills for after school. Now there are more doors opened to him.”
With the improved reading skills, Kaleb now can participate in more general education classes with his peers and is excelling in them, his parents say. He also is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and practices for track in the Special Olympics.
“He’s had one B this year,” and the rest of his grades have been A’s, said Kaleb’s mom, Melanie. “I was shocked (about the award) to say the least. He reads at home now. There are books on the shelf as decoration, and now he actually reads them. I’ve caught him reading in his room at night.”
The program, in helping him to read, also has boosted his confidence for interacting with others, said Kaleb’s dad, Wesley.
“His interaction with people is more all around,” Wesley Hansen said. “He’s more self-confident. It’s exciting because it helps him with that feeling that he can do anything he puts his mind to.”
The school is planning an all-school assembly on May 15 to honor Kaleb’s achievement.
“I’m just very proud,” his mother said. “I just look forward to what he does in the long term with his life and where this class is going to take him.”
He likes to watch The Weather Channel and wants a career as a meteorologist.
Kaleb will continue with the Read 180 program in high school. He said he enjoys his reading class and working on computers.
“Since it’s my reading class, I like it when I come in here and get right down to work,” Kaleb said. “If I don’t understand, my teachers will help with the meaning.”
KALEB HANSEN said his favorite subjects to read about are disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes. He also enjoys mystery and adventure books.