first published in The RECLAIM NEWS
Interview with Minna Trower
Creator of the Darwin the Dragon ‘Vowel-First’ Reading Program
On November 25th , RECLAIM will be hosting a special event for literacy tutors, reading specialists and special education resource teachers. Minna Trower will be introducing the Darwin the Dragon Vowel-First Reading Program, a new program which she has created to encourage beginner readers to develop a love for reading while learning a different and highly effective approach to decoding. Minna is a professional educator who brings a unique perspective to her work as a teacher. Several years ago, while studying toward a Bachelors degree in Education at McGill, Minna became aware of her own learning disability and began experimenting with different strategies for managing the challenges she was facing as a student. Since completing her teachers’ training, Minna has taught physical education, elementary school, and special education with the levels ranging from kindergarten to college.
Q: Minna how did you get interested in developing the Darwin the Dragon Reading Program?
A: I didn’t set out to create a program, but while working with children with learning disabilities I accidentally stumbled on a decoding strategy that started with the vowel, not the consonants. Because vowels have various sounds, they are the hardest part of the word to decode. I found that the rest of the word would just fall into place once the vowel had been decoded correctly, provided that the student was already familiar with consonant sounds. Using this strategy I experienced a great deal of success with students who had previously struggled with decoding, and I decided to expand it into a program that could be shared with others.
Q: How will you train teachers and tutors to use this program?
A: The guide that goes along with the program is very explicit. From the outset, I was creating this program with a train-the-trainer approach in mind so that parents and tutors could use it with facility.
Q: I understand this program is fairly new. To date, who have you tried it out on and what kind of success have you had?
A: I’ve used the program extensively with children who have learning-disabilities, and I’ve also used it to a lesser extent with adults. It has been used with a 23-year-old man who suffered a severe head trauma, and we’ve seen tremendous results. This young man’s speech therapist had concluded that he would never read again, but I decided to challenge this assumption and started using the Vowel-First approach with him. Now he reads for life skills as well as light pleasure reading. I’ve also used it with a high-functioning intellectually challenged adult. He had been exposed to reading instruction before and had developed a small sight-word vocabulary, but this is the first time he’s experienced a reasonable level of fluency with reading. I’m very excited about introducing this program to the adult literacy community. I have no doubt that we’ll see results.