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At-Risk Readers Get Helping Hand From SHSU's Own Dr. Lesesne

Dr. Lesesne

Have you ever seen a child's eyes light up under the captivation of a book? Have you ever experienced the joy of seeing a child touched by the content of a book they have just finished reading? Sam Houston State University Library Science Professor Teri Lesesne has been delighting in these experiences for the past 10 years.

Lesesne has cooperated with Lois Buckman, a former colleague, to create a mentoring program in the Conroe ISD that targets at-risk youths. Beginning with mere personal motivation to interest young minds in reading, Lesesne and Buckman established a program that works with junior and senior high school students and reintroduces them to the world of books.

Moorhead Junior High School, the newest junior high in Conroe, has many students who are "at risk." "This is an area where running water and electricity are not always available," explains Lesesne. The students are "at-risk" for various reasons, but being labeled as such, the students are not always expected to graduate, making it important for them to stay on target in their schoolwork.

Through careful observation about the struggles some children face with reading, the types of books they like to read, and the time they have available to read, Lesesne has developed a successful program that approximately 100 students complete each year. The program uses Lesesne, Buckman, and some current SHSU students to work as mentors in the school.

The program increases student interest in reading in various ways. A cart of books is taken into the classroom of students who are choosing to participate in the program. Overviews are given on all the books and students can check them out on the spot using the honor system. The cart is then placed outside the students' regular library where only they have access to the books used. They can randomly take books without having to check them out and can keep them as long as they like.

Students are prompted to read, ask questions, and share their book with others. If a book particularly touches them, they may keep it, but they are encouraged to return them in exchange for new books. They are also given extra time to read throughout the day and are given headphones to listen to books on tape while riding the bus to and from school. Authors are occasionally brought into the classroom to give guest lectures and to autograph their books.

"It's all about reinforcement," says Lesesne. "If you can match the right book with the right kid at the right time--boy, that's powerful!"

Numerous successes have arisen from the mentoring program. Dr. Lesesne recalls a student who participated in the 7th grade continued with active involvement until he graduated, even returning to help as a mentor. Upon graduation, this at-risk teen was accepted into the Air Force Academy. Lesesne says that while her success stories are great, the mere "benefit of kids being excited about books" is all the satisfaction she needs.

The program is at no cost to the school district. It is funded primarily on grant monies from various public and private organizations, including Sam Houston State University. The main cost is the supplying of the books.

Lesesne's hands-on approach has received national attention. The success of the program has been published in numerous journal articles and six states have since implemented similar mentoring programs with university partnership. The program will be a feature on Fox 26's "Building Better Minds" segment and will air for an entire week in February, with times to be announced.

For more information, contact Lesesne at (936) 294-3673 or e-mail her at

Editor's note: Air times on Fox 26 have been established as Monday, Feb. 5 during the 9 p.m. broadcast; Tuesday, Feb. 6 during the 6 a.m. broadcast; Wednesday, Feb. 7 during the 7 a.m. broadcast; and Thursday, Feb. 8 during the 12:30 p.m. broadcast.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Audrey Wick
Jan. 25, 2001
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