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November 4, 2009

Good news for reading

In terms of space, it's not so big — perhaps the size of a small classroom.

But when it comes to ideas and good intentions, ULM's new Literacy Lab, located in Strauss Hall behind the main library, may soon become noticeable at the campus and in the community.

That's the fondest hope of Beth Ricks, who holds an endowed professorship in ULM's College of Education. Her area of specialty is reading, K-12, and the Literacy Lab is her working expression of a goal to link theory to practice for educators, would-be teachers and librarians.

Ricks said with the help of Mary Lou Fulton Endowment money, input from ULM faculty campus wide and the support of book publishers, the lab will become a hands-on teaching tool for education students and working teachers.

"I noticed that students didn't have a space to practice methods they were learning in our classrooms or to create materials they could use in the field. It was a disconnect between practice and field work that needed to be resolved," Ricks told The News-Star.

That's when she crafted her idea for the Literacy Lab and sought support on campus and beyond. She'll receive Fulton endowment money for three years.

Ricks and ULM opened the lab in late October. As part of the events surrounding the public opening, renowned reading authorities John Mangieri and Cathi Collins Block lectured to a crowd of more than 100, most of whom traveled from off campus to take part.

Education students, teaching professionals and librarians will find in the Literary Lab current research materials, books on teaching methods, materials to be used in instruction, and tools for crafting lesson plans. In addition, there's a laminating machine, computers, Smart Board and other materials — "all the materials," Ricks says — to make classroom lesson plans work.

We congratulate ULM and Ricks for establishing this lab, which is open to area teachers and others in Monroe, Ouachita Parish and beyond.

We admire the good will and collaboration that help establish this Literacy Lab and admire its extension of the campus into the community.

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