Nearly five weeks ago, when 9-year-old Michael Martel was asked to make the sounds of consonants, he sat on the edge of his chair.
His voice was quiet, uncertain as each answer came out as a question, and he faltered over the sounds made by "V" and "X."
But on Friday, Michael didn't falter, reciting the consonant sounds with confidence and flipping the chart he was supposed to be reading over for added effect. He sat up straight and tall with his hands folded in front of him and a smile on his face.
Michael was one of eight students who completed Carden Academy of Huntington Beach's Reading Challenge 2010. The private school, which focuses on teaching students to read at a young age using phonetics, piloted a free five-week intensive summer reading program for local students with gaps in their reading skills.
Michael's mother, Marcia Martel, said she has already seen a big difference in his reading, handwriting and confidence, and Michael agreed.
"I feel like I improved and learned something new," he said. "A lot of new things, actually."
The children in the program sat through half-day classes for five weeks, working on reading from 8:30 to 11 a.m., and then got an hour of art instruction.
For many of the children, the problem wasn't just that they were behind in reading, but that their confidence was crushed, said Rick Martin, vice principal of Carden Academy.
"He was beat up because of his failures," Martin said.
The students were frustrated and angry when they made mistakes, but they eventually learned to "self-correct," he said, adding that they've since increased their confidence.
Michael began struggling with reading in first grade, and although he got involved in a reading program at Harbour View Elementary School, where he attends, it didn't help.
Michael now picks up more books and reads magazines — he only used to look at the pictures — and is actually looking forward to the start of school, Martel said.
But most of all, Michael said he feels really good because he will no longer have to stay in during recess to finish schoolwork or take it home at night.
"I'll be able to play with my friend and not have to take my stuff home," he said.
Interested in helping your children become a better reader?
Carden is looking to extend its Reading Challenge through the year with after-school tutoring and other activities. To find out more, or sponsor a children call (714) 536-1441.