Turning a New Page
by Pat Campbell
Turning a New Page is a research-based program that was implemented
in the Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, New Brunswick in June
2000. It is an innovative program that develops comprehension, fluency,
vocabulary, and self-esteem among prison inmates. Prior to 2000, the
inmates had resisted explicit literacy instruction. However, as the
inmates became involved in Turning a New Page, they became more willing
to receive classroom instruction.
The program involves two components: audio-taping of children’s
books and literacy instruction. Inmates contribute to the literacy development
of young children in local schools by producing audiotapes of children’s
books. The inmates record stories that are at their own reading level.
The audio-taping requires repeated readings. Some inmates need to read
a book up to 80 times before they can achieve an error free audiotape.
The classroom instruction focuses on comprehension strategies, vocabulary
development, and word pattern.
Over the course of two years, 65 inmates participated in Turning a
New Page. In the first year, more than 1,600 children and 56 teachers
in 20 elementary schools received complimentary children’s books
and audiotapes. These resources were used in listening centers and for
guided reading. They allowed children to independently develop their
phonological awareness, and fluency.
In one year some inmates improved as much as three to four grade levels.
Engaging in repeated readings of books at their own reading level contributed
to the development of the inmates’ fluency. Reading the children’s
books gave them an opportunity to experience success and feel positive
about reading, and gave them the motivation to move on to more challenging
reading material. In addition to an improvement in literacy skills,
the results included improved confidence and reduced recidivism.
This study suggests that programs such as Turning a New Page can support
the literacy development of all learners, regardless of age or situation.
If this program is implemented in PEI, it will be an excellent way to
form partnerships with elementary schools. The repeated readings of
books would be a practical strategy to use with adults who are beginning
readers. The adult students could be encouraged to take the book home
and read it to their children. Engaging children in repeated readings
with their parent would also enhance the children’s fluency and
instill a love of literature.
This article is another in a series highlighting new
trends in literacy.