One-on-one literacy tutoring at the Playhouse

I want to introduce you to an extraordinary opportunity at GiGi’s Playhouse, for our children and for members of the community who are interested in becoming active partners with us in changing the lives of individuals with Down syndrome through the experience of literacy.

I became involved with the Playhouse and have agreed to be Education Director of our Literacy Program because of the positive  impact I have seen reading have on my son Aedan, who turns 5 in November, as he progresses from pre-reading skills to beginning sight word recognition.

In January 2012, I added literacy goals to my son’s IEP — the lead up to this was having meetings with his school teachers, administrators and therapists to discuss the role of literacy in speech, but also because it was an untested area of my son’s development: no one had yet demonstrated that he couldn’t read at grade level.  I had nothing to lose.

I turned initially to Natalie Hale’s wonderful literacy program called “Special Reads for Special Needs” and  read the research on literacy conducted by DownsEd International.  When GiGi’s Playhouse announced the launch of their literacy program, I became interested.

The program at GiGi’s Playhouse is based on Patricia Oelwein’s book “Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read” and utilizes materials from the “Reading A to Z” program. Like Hale’s and the DownsEd International Program, Oelwein bases her method on leveraging the strengths of individuals with Down Syndrome as visual learners, and tends to inverse the learning of reading by using sight words, flash cards, and repetition in a system called “Match, Select, Name.”

The GiGI’s Playhouse program incorporates interactive modeling, custom made reading materials, games and activities focused on reading.   Tutors work one-on-one with students for weekly 45 minute sessions in the Playhouse literacy room.

In August, the Playhouse successfully completed a summer pilot for 10 families (matched with 10 outstanding tutors) and we are in the process of rolling out the fall program.

We are ACTIVELY SEEKING literacy tutors for our children. If you are interested in volunteering as a tutor, administrative support, or in helping us publicize the program, please consider coming to the Educator-Tutor Open House on Thursday, September 13, 6-8pm.  I will be presenting along with our tutor trainer Tobie Franklin, Director of Learning Support, The IDEAL School, and Judy Gross, Director of Literacy and Special Programs, JCC– both of whom are key members of our literacy team, and participated in the summer literacy program pilot.

Literacy can start at any time, and is a lifelong activity for all of us; for our children it can be an especially powerful tool.  Please help us spread the word about GiGi’s literacy program, a great way to strengthen our children’s future through the gift of literacy.


Jordana Mendelson

Education Director, Literacy Program, GiGi’s Playhouse NYC

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