Ashley Singer thought her life path would lead to the theatre world as a stage technician. Lucky for us and those with reading deficits, the Kent County native found her true calling as a literacy professional and is now the Executive Director of Open Doors, a non-profit literacy tutoring program she co-founded with Associate Director Julie Blyman.
Singer says her interest in helping children with reading difficulties arose when asked to babysit a friend’s dyslexic child, a student at Radcliffe Creek School. The school impressed Singer, and she was invited to teach there.
However, after meeting renowned educator Dr. Fran Bowman, Singer realized she wanted to fully develop her skills as a reading educator.
Bowman, who passed away in 2021, was instrumental in promoting the Orton-Gillingham training method, a multi-sensory approach originally formulated to teach people with dyslexia and now used for a more comprehensive array of reading challenges. The technique teaches tutors to use sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help students connect language with words.
When Covid hit in early 2020, Singer and Blyman realized that school closures and remote learning were going to take a toll on reading skills, especially in underserved communities where internet access is often limited.
Nationwide pre-Covid studies found that only a third of eighth graders were proficient in reading and math and about 30 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading. Post-pandemic, reading problems have spiked to historic levels.
In Kent County, “less than 11 percent of third graders perform at a proficient level of English Language Arts according to the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program scores from Fall of 2021.”
For Singer and Blyman, the challenge is clear. Reading skills, already in decline, have suffered a dramatic setback during the pandemic. The challenges are even more pronounced for students already hampered by reading disabilities.
The Spy met with Executive Director of Open Doors Ashley Singer to talk about their mission to provide one-on-one tutoring to those with reading deficits.
This video is approximately eight minutes in length. To find out more about Open Door, go here.