NM Lions Crane Reading  Foundation

One of the State’s newest and very exciting Lions projects is the Lions Crane Reading Program, which seeks to improve NM students’ reading proficiency. In the past, NM has ranked 48th out of 50 with respect to children’s reading achievement. Many students report symptoms of headaches, seeing double, getting dizzy, eyes burning, and/or blurry vision during and after reading which in the past has thought to be normal. Research has now shown that these symptoms are really a sign of some underlying problem, which if not remedied, will adversely impact the student’s reading and hence learning, ability. The Crane Reading Program has shown that if the problem is identified, most symptoms can be remedied at the school by the teacher assisted by a vision specialist. Many times, glasses will correct the problem. If they do not, then vision skill development may be needed.

The screening process is primarily a thirty minute group of tests. The Lion Functional Vision Checklist identifies the visual problems as well as their severity. The Lion Copy Forms (four perception drawings) reveal those students who need visual perceptiontraining, which applies primarily for students in the early grades. The Lion Spelling Words help identify students with not only possible visual problems but auditory and processing problems. The standard eye screening chart identifies only about 17% of the children who require help. However, if a retinoscopy test is also performed by an optometrist, it has been shown that 41% of the students are identified with astigamatism.

The American Optometric Association performed a test with 10,000 children that showed that seldom is a child’s chair and desk at the correct height (should be as high as the child’s waist). The test revealed that 5% of five year olds suffered from near-sightedness (myopia). By the time the students reached second grade, 17% had developed myopia, much of which is caused by the incorrect desk height. Children spend many hours in front of a television, which is normally six to ten feet away. During this time, their eyes do not move or change focus. However, when they start school, they are expected to look at small details at arm’s length for prolonged periods of time and this is when the sight and resulting reading problems may occur. The Crane Reading Program has been introduced into schools in Las Cruces, NM, and the results are phenomenal. As the Program matures, it is expected 70% of the students with reading disorders will be helped by alleviating, if not eliminating, those problems at a minimal cost. Lions Allen and Virginia Crane (505-373-0561) of the Las Cruces Lions Club are the developers of this great Program and can be contacted if a Club is interested in more information.

Overview of Program. Students in the United States rank 16th out of the 19 industrialized nations in the world in reading proficiency (i.e., to be able to understand, apply, and analyze challenging subject matter in a timely manner). Similarly, New Mexico ranks near the bottom of all states in reading proficiency according to a report published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Lions Crane Reading Program (LCRP) addresses this alarming trend in the State by assessing whether a child is having a reading problem and if there is one, by determining what can be done to reduce it, if not eliminate it. If a child is having reading problems, the Program first provides an examination of a child’s eyes, which will reveal if eye glasses are needed. Once it has been determined the child’s eyes are functioning optimally (either uncorrected or corrected), the child’s reading proficiency is enhanced through the use of templates and computer assisted phonics and reading speed enhancement programs.

The Program also addresses other more subtle contributors to the degradation of reading proficiency such as the height of the child’s school desk. The success of the LCRP, which was incorporated 9 January 2004, has been noted by dramatic improvement in reading skills (to a student’s current grade proficiency level and higher) and behavior in students considered problem children. NM Governor Bill Richardson recently issued an executive proclamation that specifies 5-11 September is Lions Vision Awareness Week in the State of New Mexico. The Proclamation specifies the Lions Crane Reading Program as an essential tool to be used to enhance the reading proficiency of children in New Mexico.

LCRP Administration. The Lions Crane Reading Program, which was developed by Lions Alan and Virginia Crane, was adopted a while back by the Las Cruces Lions. Because of the Club’s determination and hard work, the Program has been integrated into several schools in Las Cruces and other areas in southern NM resulting in marked improvement in reading proficiency as noted previously. Currently, the Las Cruces Lions are soliciting other Clubs in New Mexico to adopt the Program as a signature community service project in their community.

Services Provided To Children by the LCRP. Children with reading problems in kindergarten through high school can be helped by LCRP. To date over 2400 elementary, middle, and high school children in four school districts across southern NM have benefited from LCRP. The LCRP is also being used by a local Boys and Girls Club and an after-school program. Eye Exams. Lions furnish local schoolswith portable vision testing equipment that can be easily set up at the schools. If the eye exam reveals a child may have sight problems, the child is referred to an eye doctor for further examination to determineif glasses are required. If glasses areneeded and the child’s parent’s cannot afford them, the attending Lions Club follows up to find a source such as Medicaid or a charity, and if none can be found, the Club purchases the glasses for the child. Note that the vision testing equipment used at the schools is capable of distinguishingwhether a child has an astigmatism or is farsighted, eye disorders not commonly that are identified during a less involved eye screening that does not include a retinoscopy and eye teaming skills assessment.

Reading Skills Development. Reading proficiency can be degraded by many factors besides vision problems. Templates, correct desk height, reading silently, vision developmental activities, and computer reading programs can all help a child read faster and more comprehensively in a short time.

LCRP Costs and Funding. The approximate cost of the LCRP is approximately $200 per child. A school can use Title I and Special Education funds to help implement the Program. Medicaid can pay for some of the vision testing costs. Grants (to include one from LCIF) can be applied for to supplement funding. Initially, LCRP was funded through contributions of Lions and supporting individuals in the community.

Currently, the LCRP is operating based on donations of approximately $5500. As the Program progresses, it is envisioned the annual budget for the Program would increase to $80,000-$100,000

LCRP Integration Plan. There has been a five phase Integration Plan developed to provide direction for Clubs who wish to implement LCRP in their local schools. Following is a summary of that Plan.

Phase I – Lions initially interface with the school principal and give an overview of the Program and benefits. The overview should include providing a copy of the book, Reading Problems Resolved, and a copy of the LCRP Introductory Video.

Phase II – Ask the school principal for permission to present the LCRP Introductory Video and other videos concerning the Program to the school staff. Answer any questions clearly and sufficiently and follow up to determine the level of interest in the Program by the school staff. If the school agrees to implement the LCRP, meet with them and establish a plan of action.

Phase III – The sponsoring Club furnishes the required vision testing equipment and assists the staff in arranging for an optometrist to come to the school to perform the vision testing and an optician to fit and provide glasses.

Phase IV - Establish training sessions for Lions to become proficient with the LCRP templates, gross motor program, and computer programs. These trained Lions, who will be the liaisons between the school using the Program and the Club, will contact the school on a weekly basis to determine the status of the Program implementation. If there are any problems, the trained Lions will solve them. Inquiries will also be made as to the progress of the students and a checklist will be used to ensure each step of the Program is proceeding as intended.

Phase V – The Club will assist the staff in establishing after-school programs for children that need additional help. Lions can help by doing such things as helping to run a computer lab and monitoring the progress of the children. A club can have a fund raiser that explicitly pays for any costs of the after school programs or to buy glasses for needy children.