Reading to the Beat - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Laura Diaz

Reading to the Beat

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In Mrs. Angel's class at Hollenbeck Middle School the sound of the beat can be heard down the hallway. But this isn't a performing arts class. It's a special needs class where students are learning through a new technique—called "Rhythm and Reading."  As the name would imply, students are reading as their teachers drum out a beat. Sound far-fetched? Not so—say teacher and students. In a two-step exercise-- the tap,tap tempo helps students relax and visualize. Once they are in a relaxed state, they set out to read aloud. For many of these students, reading has represented failure and shame. But they are gradually building self-esteem and success.

This is a class of 7th and 8th grade students, where students read at the level of a second grader. The typical student has been diagnosed with A-D-D or A-D-H-D.  By October, many had improved at least one grade level  in comprehension and fluency. This success is hard won. Students told me there had been times in their education when they saw difficult words in a sentence. They felt fear and dread while reading aloud. Reading to the rhythm gives them a mechanism to work together with their teachers to connect and push through the word.

The Rhythm and Reading technique is the brain child of Mrs. Angel's husband, Steven. He was a child musical wunderkind, playing with Jimmy Hendrix and The ‘Herman's Hermits.' His musical background taught him the benefits of focusing on the beat and using it to make difficult tasks easier. He says it places you in the present moment.  Angel sees drumming as a ‘healing technique.' He says it releases all the distractions. When the program first started.. he said teachers looked at him like he was from another planet.  But then, test scores began to improve, and doubters became believers. In Angel's words, " We are igniting the fight response. For a lot of students, the flight response gets ignited when reading, which is the running away."

Thank you to the students who allowed me to sit in during their class. You could sense their  feeling of achievement. This program can be found in twenty schools in the LA Unified School Districts.      

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