DECEMBER 5, 1958
BOSTON—The whole world reacted with horror to the school fire in Chicago in which so many children were trapped and died. So far the only explanation seems to be that someone, perhaps a child, threw a lighted cigarette into a scrap basket but this has not been confirmed and maybe never shall be.
One feels that with the drills that are usually carried on no fire could have reached such terrific proportions without being discovered in time to get the children out.
The tragedy has touched the hearts of people throughout the world, and I hope it will mean increased care on the part of all of us who have an obligation to see that schools and hospitals are very carefully guarded against fire.
Before long in our city of New York there will come up before the budget director a request for more reading clinics.
In 1955 the Board of Education launched the first reading clinic to serve emotionally disturbed children who are retarded readers. In December, 1956, a second clinic was opened in Brooklyn, and this autumn three new clinics have been opened. These five clinics provide service for over 1,200 children.
This group has one overall administrator and the staff of each clinic consists of a psychologist full time, a psychiatric social worker full time, a psychiatrist part time, and three reading counsellors.
For the most part the children referred to these clinics come from the 4th grade. They have to have average or better-than-average intelligence. They have to have the consent of their parents and there must be present some emotional maladjustment. These youngsters must be at least one and a half years behind in their ability to read.
They work in groups of four or five children for one hour twice a week and occasionally a child who seems incapable of working with a group is taken individually until it reaches a point where it can function with the other children.
Mothers cooperate in this program and are interviewed by a psychiatric worker before the child goes to the clinic. Sometimes they are seen as often as once a week and the psychiatric social worker also keeps in close touch with the reading counselor so that there is coordination among all those who must help the child.
These children must also be examined physically, so as to be sure to discover and correct anything that might lead to the emotional problem. A speech diagnosis is made by a specialist who provides for treatment if the examination indicates that the child needs treatment in order to speak better.
When the youngsters reach the reading level of their grades they graduate and, as I told you before, on my visit to one of the clinics I was told that one child when asked what graduation meant replied, "One of the best things that has happened to me since I have learned to read is that I am no longer afraid of books."
The children I saw seemed happy and eager to learn and there was a wonderful feeling of friendship between the teacher and the children. I hope very much that as many of these clinics as are really needed may be established throughout the country, since they may save us far greater trouble with these children later on.