Important Updates about COVID-19

Read more about UNCP's response to COVID-19.

Reading project improving literacy skills among American Indian youth


UNCP Alumnus and retired UNCP professor Dr. Reginald Oxendine was recently interviewed by Neal Christie, assistant General Secretary for Education and Leadership Formation, a national publication with the United Methodist Church. Oxendine facilitates the Native American Reading and Literacy Demonstration Project at First United Methodist Church in Pembroke. This ministry will strengthen the need for Native American Indian Children to improve their reading and literacy skills. Oxendine established the Reading Solutions Company after teaching at UNCP for 12 years. The Q&Q with Neal follows:

What are the underlying root causes to illiteracy in the Native American communities?

The root cause of illiteracy in Native American communities is because phonics and phonemic awareness instruction has been abandoned for the past 50 years. Predominantly, whole language reading instruction has been the standard for teaching reading. This type of reading emphasizes the memorization of words. The English Language is made up of approximately 1,000,000 words. Whole language reading instruction gained momentum in the 1950’s and … and has continued until today as the major adopted method of reading instruction.

What is the literacy program and why is it important to Native Americans?

In 2016 the NC State Advisory Council on Indian Education conducted a study of academic data of American Indian students in NC on the EOG (End of Grade Test). The EOG reading data showed that American Indian students performed 27.8 percentage points below the average for white students in reading. Only 42.8% of American Indian students demonstrated grade level proficiency in reading.

What are the root causes that if addressed would systemically make literacy the norm among Native Americans?

American Indians are auditory and visual learners. This is why our Reading Solutions’ reading and literacy instructional programs and materials are very effective to help American Indians and others become excellent readers in a short time. Reading Solutions begins with the basics of reading and advances to more advanced levels of reading. Our literacy site has more than 400 hours of instructional activities and more than 2700 full motion videos.

Which United Methodist congregations were or are involved and how are they involved?

Pembroke First UMC in Pembroke, NC was the primary sponsoring church and the endorser of our Reading and Literacy Demonstration Project. Twelve (12) other churches in our Native American Cooperative Ministries of the Gateway District of NC United Methodist Churches participated and received benefits and services from this Ethnic Grant. Pembroke First UMC and the other twelve (12) participating congregations are all predominately American Indian children and adults.

How did the program succeed?

During our Reading and Literacy Demonstration Project, we recruited and trained key people in the congregations of our twelve (12) predominantly Indian churches to become certified reading tutors. These volunteers were trained to be proficient and expert reading instructors. These certified reading tutors then began to recruit children and adults who wanted to improve their reading and literacy skills. These reading instructional materials were designed to help students in Grades PK–6. They are also excellent self-directed remedial tools for elementary, middle, high school and adult students.

What do others say about the literacy program?

The reading gap is one of the most shameful failures of modern society. With all the money allocated to public education and various social programs, the inability to teach all students to read at grade level should be an immediate call to action. ‘Reading Solutions’ is a reading program that gives students, teachers, parents, tutors and others access to tools that can greatly improve reading and literacy. If a student can read on grade level, their opportunities are limited only by their own imagination and not the prejudices of others.”