University Of Michigan Student's Modification of Popular Game Show To Help Children Learn To Read Worldwide

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CBS's The Price is Right's popular Plinko game inspires reading tutoring strategy helping children worldwide.

For 35 years, The Price is Right game show on CBS has been entertaining America while educating the public about popular brands and products. Now, the show has inspired the development of a reading tutoring strategy that will be helping children worldwide develop the literacy skills they need to become strong, independent readers. The strategy, called Word Link-O, was developed by Courtney Harkness, a student at the University of Michigan. For the remainder of April, America Learns, LLC will distribute Courtney's innovative strategy to educators and parents around the world at no cost.

While studying cellular, molecular and developmental biology, Courtney has been tutoring at a charter school in Ypsilanti with the University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps. Much of her time has involved helping her elementary school students learn to read words made up of specific sounds and vowel endings. Her students, for example, had a difficult time reading words ending in -ing and -s.

As Courtney brainstormed on ways to build her students' skills in this area, inspiration hit: the famous Plinko game on CBS's longstanding game show, The Price is Right. During that game, a contestant drops chips down a large pegboard, watching them land in one of several slots denoting cash payouts to the player.

In Courtney's Word Link-O version, the student drops chips marked with the beginning of a word down the board. The chips land in slots representing different word endings. The student then reads and calls out the formed word. The game provides students with the energy and motivation they need to leap over their personal barriers to reading success.

"Her strategy exemplifies the way she goes above and beyond in her efforts," said Rachel Klingelhofer, Co-Director, University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps. "It is always remarkable to me that education isn't Courtney's field of study; she's a natural at the work."

"Courtney exemplifies the necessary creative, targeted, meaningful work that tutors in all of our communities need to be doing," said Gary Kosman, founder and CEO, America Learns. "All of us at America Learns are honored to have the opportunity of recognizing and distributing Courtney's Word Link-O strategy to thousands of educators and parents worldwide."

Courtney's strategy may be accessed throughout April at and will be permanently available to all America Learns Network members.

About the University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps (
In the Fall of 1997, the University of Michigan's Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, its Office of Financial Aid, and its School of Education joined forces to form the University of Michigan America Reads Tutoring Corps. America Reads is committed to having all children reading well and independently by the end of third grade. By recruiting University of Michigan students to serve as tutors, America Reads gets students excited about reading, improves students' literacy skills, provides greater access to books and opportunities for reading with an adult, and supports literacy development at home. Beginning in September 2005 America Reads expanded from approximately 100 to 200 tutors thanks to a grant from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to expand the program. Each year more than 600 children in area schools receive reading assistance from America Reads tutors.

About America Learns, LLC ( America Learns, based in Los Angeles County, is a national educational performance and accountability firm reaching more than 12,000 students nationwide. The company's flagship service, the America Learns Network, helps organizations track, evaluate and provide ongoing guidance and support to tutors, mentors and student teachers. Organizations using its services include universities (e.g., Dwight Hall at Yale, Duke, UC Berkeley, Georgetown and the University of Michigan), community-based nonprofits (e.g., Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates and the YMCA of Greater St. Louis), after-school programs (e.g., Public/Private Ventures' YET centers), and school districts (e.g., the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Minneapolis Public Schools). The company also creates and publishes high quality, meaningful, stress-free learning opportunities for children that are steeped in relevant research and practice. It's most recent book is Bonding While Learning: Activities to Grow Your Relationship While Preparing for Reading Success.


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