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The Reading Lady

Upcountry clinic creates a high-vibe, dynamic place where kids excel.

March 4, 2010
Crissa Hiranaga

Fortunately, Tohtz, owner and director of The Reading Clinic in Makawao, is here to help. Her passion for teaching children reading skills is tangible. 

“I love what I do! I love figuring out why a student has been stuck in reading and helping him or her move through that to become a really skilled reader who actually wants to read,” she said

Tohtz did her undergraduate work at the small Ivy League school, Bryn Mawr College, then obtained a dual master’s degree in elementary education and reading at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her extensive schooling provided deep training in reading theory, assessment, diagnosis and instruction. Since then, Tohtz has worked as a reading specialist in diverse settings around the world, including six years of private practice on the Big Island, where she became a staple in the local community.

Article Photos

Carlita Tohtz (left) and Melanie Lewis help students improve their reading skills.

Tohtz’s volumes of reading success stories prove that she knows exactly how to obtain results. 

“The single most critical piece to effective reading intervention is expert assessment and expert interpretation of assessment results. That’s the first step of the process at The Reading Clinic,” Tohtz explained. “Then, I write instructional plans individually according to each student’s demonstrated strengths and needs in the reading.”

The Reading Clinic’s clients include a substantial range of children: 5- to 18-year-olds from all schools—public, private and homeschooled. Many attend to get help with their reading difficulties, while others are there to move beyond their grade level toward advanced reading and writing extensions and projects or to prepare for the SAT test.

The Reading Clinic offers three different programs to fit the different needs of kids and their parents: private sessions, group sessions and No Child Left Behind sessions. Private sessions ensure the child has the entire focus for the hour, which guarantees fast growth. Two to three students of the same reading needs and age group comprise group lessons, which Tohtz created to fill the need of families who may not be able to afford private lessons, but don’t qualify for the No Child Left Behind program.

Tohtz carries the honor of being awarded the contract for the No Child Left Behind program and is proud to offer free sessions for students who qualify. The student must attend a qualifying school, qualify for free or reduced priced meals, and demonstrate a need in reading. The Reading Clinic is currently opening up spaces for students who meet these criteria; parents are urged to contact them to see if their child qualifies for this opportunity to receive more than $1,000 of free reading instruction.

Regardless of the program, Tohtz creates a customized plan for each student. Rather than using one program, she implements dozens of the best research-based programs and reading practices and strategies within her instructional lessons.

“It is all very carefully planned,” she said. “It is critical to keep kids challenged but not frustrated. The instruction has to be right at that perfect place. That affective domain in reading—which is where kids’ feelings and self-esteem intersect with the reading process—is so important.”

Tohtz and lead instructor Melanie Lewis face the challenge of keeping kids enthusiastic about reading by maintaining an energizing environment.

“[Lewis gets] the vision I have for a high-vibe, dynamic place where kids exceed their wildest aspirations,” said Tohtz. “We want kids to love coming to The Reading Clinic, so we really make an effort to connect to the kids. We make it safe to make mistakes, to work hard, and we are big on celebration and praise.”

Although the Maui clinic has been open for just a few months, parents are already singing its praises. Parents Kathi and Brian Jones wrote about their son, “His confidence and attitude has changed 1000 percent, and his meltdowns surrounding reading are almost nonexistent! He won’t be made fun of anymore due to his inferior reading skills.  He is winning this battle now and feels very proud of himself and accomplishments he has made with the dynamic duo of Carla and Melanie.”

In addition to The Reading Clinic’s regular weekday hours of 2 to 6 p.m., Tohtz holds a free “Talk Story” night every first Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. followed by a question-and-answer period. (Call to RSVP.)  She also plans to offer summer camps and encourages parents to contact her with input.

“We want to know their thoughts,” said Tohtz, “I want this special clinic to be a place where the community is involved.”



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