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Teacher uses sound, video and rewards to encourage reading

By Staff
Loves a job that takes tough love
By CHRISTINA HALE, Staff Writer
CHOCOWINITY — Some students think Judy Bailey, a language arts teacher at Chocowinity Middle School, is tough, but she believes teaching takes tough love.
She has made quite an impact during her two years at Chocowinity Middle.
Lisa Baker, the media coordinator, said Bailey goes to every home game to support the students. “That shows you how (Bailey) is,” Baker said.
Principal Rick Anderson said Bailey helped her students “make tremendous gains in reading in a very short time” by using her own personal audio book collection in the classroom. He estimated the collection to be worth about $30,000 to $40,000.
Roman Rodriguez, a sixth grader, didn’t speak English when he came to Chocowinity Middle two years ago.
Rodriguez likes the magic in the stories, he said, and has all the movies thanks to Bailey’s classroom rewards.
Bailey went to Meredith College because “it was the socially acceptable thing to do between high school graduation and marriage.” The teaching degree was “just in case,” she said.
In college, Bailey said she would sing “Someday my Prince will Come” out her dormitory window. “I believed under my cap and gown, I would have on a wedding dress and go right down the aisle,” she said, but her prince showed up seven years late.
When Bailey first returned to teaching in 1988, she worked at a private school in Florida. In 1991, she took a another teaching position in Virginia. There, she taught English to political refugees from war-torn areas such as Sudan, Bosnia and Ethiopia for 15 years. “No two students were from the same country,” she said.
Bailey used audio books to teach the English language to her refugee students and has now incorporated her audio collection into her language arts classroom at Chocowinity Middle. “Being read to is a wonderful experience. The audio books give the students that one-on-one reading. (It’s) their own personal reader,” she said.
The students follow along in the book while they listen. “They see the word in print and it’s doubly imprinted in their brain,” she said.
Her audio book program gives students a variety of choices, Bailey said.
Students also can check out Bailey’s audio books and take them home. If they don’t have a compact disc or cassette player, Bailey provides one.
Bailey also incorporates videos “to broaden the experience,” she said. Children’s books are studied to help her middle school students learn grammar and alliteration.
If students improve, they get a gift bag.
Bailey’s gifts include pens, pencils, erasers, but also larger prizes such as dictionaries, movies and compact disc players. “You’ve got to entice them into wanting to read, and hopefully the real reward is when they realize, ‘I grew intellectually; I scored higher on my end-of-grade test; and I enjoyed good literature,’” she said.
Every year, Bailey’s classroom is decorated according to theme. This year’s theme is food. Her audio books are kept in a grocery cart, and the Francis Bacon quote, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested,” is printed in big letters on the front wall.