Joy of Reading

Roosevelt Clinic Welcomes 50 Youths

by LAURA JANOTA

Margaret Policastro, the founder of the Summer Reading Clinic

Roosevelt University Summer Reading Clinic activities like storytelling, reading aloud and writing usually take place inside the Schaumburg Campus building.

However, the real love of reading that Roosevelt graduate education student and alumna Heather Hercog helped spark spread well beyond the classroom.

“We had a girl who got dropped off for the clinic and immediately sat down on the sidewalk of the building entrance to read a book, even as people passed,” said Hercog, who taught third and fourth graders during Roosevelt’s 32nd annual Summer Reading Clinic in June and July.

“I saw kids on their first day jumping up and down and crowing about the books I’d propped up around the classroom, and we even had a girl who took five of the books home and read them in six days,” added Hercog, who taught at the clinic as a reading specialist candidate in Roosevelt’s Master of Arts in Reading program.

Hercog is currently a grade school teacher at Wauconda School District 118’s Cotton Creek Elementary School in Island Lake, Illinois. “There is more enthusiasm at the Summer Reading Clinic than there is even in my own classroom,” she said. “It’s incredible to see this kind of joy for reading.”

“There is more enthusiasm at the Summer Reading Clinic than there is even in my own classroom. It’s incredible to see this kind of joy for reading.”

– Heather Hercog
BA Elementary Education, ’13; MA in Reading Candidate

Such motivation is something that Roosevelt Professor of Reading Margaret Policastro, the founder of the Summer Reading Clinic, has been fostering for decades.

“My goal has always been to set up a best-practice school where kids can see what joyful reading and learning are all about,” said Policastro, who welcomed more than 50 youths, ages 5 through 12, to the Summer Reading Clinic on June 10.

“We’ve worked hard to make the joy of reading happen,” she added, “and now my dream of spreading that joy far and wide is coming true.”

Roosevelt’s Summer Reading Clinic has become more than simply a learning experience for children and their parents. In fact, the clinic that Policastro started in 1987 is now a model laboratory for visiting educators from public schools in Chicago, the suburbs and downstate Illinois.

“We understand that reading is the foundation for everything we do, and are impressed with the balanced literacy approach that Professor Policastro uses to improve reading environments that can boost reading scores,” said Shelly Davis-Jones, the superintendent of Dolton School District 149, who received a doctorate in educational leadership from Roosevelt in 2013.

“My hope is for our team to be as inspired as these kids are. We want to do more as a district to start our own clinics that will support summer reading by our students.”

– Shelly Davis-Jones
Superintendent of Dolton School District 149

Davis-Jones and her team of principals and literacy coaches from District 149, which serves approximately 2,700 students at eight schools in the south suburbs, visited Roosevelt’s Summer Reading Clinic to observe the joy of reading in action.

“My hope is for our team to be as inspired as these kids are,” said Davis-Jones. “We want to do more as a district to start our own clinics that will support summer reading by our students.”

The College of Education program has proven over the years to boost reading levels by a grade level for each summer session children attend. It also is becoming a model for partner schools through an Illinois Board of Higher Education program called IL-EMPOWER.

“The success of the Summer Reading Clinic has helped pave the way for Roosevelt to become a leader in literacy training and education,” said Tom Philion, dean of Roosevelt’s College of Education. “We are making great strides in teacher preparation around the state in part thanks to this program, and our hope is to continue building more — and better — teachers.”

Two Chicago public schools, Perkins Bass Elementary in the city’s Englewood neighborhood and Ralph Metcalfe Community Academy Elementary in the city’s Pullman area, were the first to join with Roosevelt to improve their reading programs, with help from an Illinois Board of Higher Education grant in 2010.

“We have been working to develop school environments that emphasize reading,” said Policastro. “Along the way, our Summer Reading Clinic has taken off as a small balanced literacy school that can be an example for success.”

The concept appeals to Joseph E. Gary Elementary School in Chicago’s Little Village. The school recently sent a team of principals, literacy coaches and teachers to the Summer Reading Clinic, and a new partnership may soon be possible, Policastro said.

In the meantime, partnerships with Roosevelt’s Summer Reading Clinic have spread to other parts of Illinois, including Rantoul City Schools 137.

“We are getting a better grasp on what balanced learning looks like,” said Tom Magers, principal of Broadmeadow Elementary School in Rantoul, who began his career as an educator with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Roosevelt in 2008. His team visited Roosevelt’s Summer Reading Clinic in July.

“We think this model will be a good base we can use to build a successful reading program in the Rantoul schools,” Magers added.

For her part, Hercog will also take back what she learned as a Summer Reading Clinic teacher to her own classroom in Wauconda School District 118.

“I’ve discovered by teaching at the clinic that getting kids super excited about reading really can be done,” said Hercog. “This is a program that’s all about spreading the love of reading beyond the classroom and I’m looking forward to doing just that in the fall with my own students.”

Hercog received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Roosevelt in 2013. Her father, Joseph Baum, who majored in computer science, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Roosevelt in 1985. Her mother, Karen Baum, who majored in professional administration, also graduated from Roosevelt with a Bachelor of General Studies degree in 1997. Hercog will receive her second degree from Roosevelt, a Master of Arts in Reading, in December 2019.

More in this section

Immigration Nation

Immigration Nation

At the fourth American Dream Conference, community leaders tackled questions about immigration, citizenship and American identity.

A Framework for Change

A Framework for Change

From the West Side to the Southeast Side, winners of a Roosevelt social justice award are fighting for a more equitable Chicago.

Skip to toolbar