Elise J. Kushigian, Community Arts Team Member & Community Member Former Executive Director of Clowes Memorial Hall
We soon realized that instead of reading books if she could read theatre scripts she was overcoming her disabilities. Thanks to her second grade teacher, permission was given for her outside reading list to be scripts. Each night, we all became characters and put on a “show.” To her, this was not reading but a theatrical experience.
Valentine’s Day 1988 was a very important day in the life of our daughter. On that day, we gave her T. S. Elliot’s
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The book helped to improve her reading skills in a way that no teacher or reading specialist had been able to do. We already knew that she was dyslexic and was born with a hearing disorder. Her only successful way to learn was as an audio learner. These elements made reading very difficult and although she was in second grade, her reading skills were that of a four-year-old.
Our daughter had already seen the musical,
Cats, but did not realize that the source of the material came from poetry. That day we read the poetry over and over again. To her it was like seeing the show again. We soon realized that instead of reading books if she could read theatre scripts she was overcoming her disabilities. Thanks to her second grade teacher, permission was given for her outside reading list to be scripts. Each night, we all became characters and put on a “show.” To her, this was not reading but a theatrical experience. Scripts were less descriptive and the layout of the text helped to eliminate many of the issues caused by the dyslexia. By the end of the school year, we had completed all of Neil Simon’s plays and her reading level had jumped to that of a beginning second grader.
This experience showed me the importance art has in a student’s life. It can be a way to overcome a learning disability and give a child the confidence they need to learn.
About the AuthorElise J. Kushigian recently retired as Executive Director of Clowes Memorial Hall after twenty years. One of her areas of responsibility at Clowes included overseeing its nationally recognized PreK-12 Education Program, which is the largest comprehensive Arts Education program in Indiana. Elise is a recipient of Indiana’s Sagamore of the Wabash and a 2011 Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow.
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