UTSA | COEHD | University of Texas at San Antonio | College of Edcuation and Human Development
Sat, October 19, 2019

War and poverty: building reading achievement in a time of turbulence

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This summer, in the midst of an escalating war, Dr. Rosalind Horowitz, professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, traveled to several cities in Israel to give lectures based on her research and to collaborate with researchers in the Negev, the southernmost part of Israel. Her trip abroad also served as an opportunity for her to meet face-to-face with children living in poverty and subject to the atrocities of war.

Horowitz, elected chair of the Special Interest Group on Research in Reading and Literacy in the American Education Research Association, was invited to speak by Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Developmental Disabilities in Ramat-Gan, just outside Tel Aviv, Isreal. Included among Bar-Ilan University’s outstanding academic units is an entire building devoted to brain research and psychology of the human mind, whose faculty interact with the Department of Developmental Disabilities.

Horowitz spoke to masters and doctoral students who primarily serve low-income families and those facing a time of turbulence.  Her speech, entitled “Talking Texts:  How oral discourse influences poverty populations,” addressed research on the role of attention and stamina, listening comprehension, and parent-child oral interaction that is central to developing reading achievement in schools with large numbers of struggling immigrant children. The presentation was based on Talking Texts, which was designed by Horowitz, to display examples of the importance of oral discourse in learning for reading achievement, critical thinking, and reasoning in life.

In addition to speaking at the university, Horowitz took some time while in Israel to tour creative summer programs serving children in poverty. Many of these children were facing the catastrophes or fears related to war and some of them were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The children migrated from Argentina, India, Russia, Romania, Syria, and Ethiopia to start a new life in a Democratic society, many arriving with nothing. One of the schools Horowitz visited was funded by Reverend John C. Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. This program also maintains offices worldwide in South America, England, Switzerland, France, and the United States.

The children introduced themselves and the countries from which they originated.  They were, in many cases, bilingual, biliterate, and from binational families. They were enthralled with meeting someone from the United States and shared information about their immigration and assimilation into Israeli communities.

Horowitz also met with research collaborators at Ben Gurion University and Kaye Teachers College in Beersheba, which serves large populations of Bedouins, Arabic-speaking nomadic people, in the Negev. Kay Teachers College is in the process of establishing a partnership with UTSA’s College of Education and Human Development. This research collaboration examines the effects of pre-writing, with use of graphic organizers, on written argumentation. This intervention equips students and teachers in acquiring academic writing skills in the upper-grades.


During her time in Israel, Horowitz experienced, first-hand, the missile threats that are a common occurrence in the country. While traveling on a highway from Omer to Beersheba, Horowitz and her colleague recall being alerted by sirens of missiles overhead.  Like others on the road, they left their car, went to the roadside, and fell to the ground to avoid missiles. Within 20 seconds, the group was up and back on the road to their destination.  Horowitz’s host and research colleague identified her bomb shelter, which was a small building outside of the house.  When choosing a restaurant for the evening dinner, the plan was to select one with a bomb shelter should the sirens go off and security be needed. 


Photo 1:  Standing in the center, 4th in from the left, is Dr. Rosalind Horowitz, and Dr. Rachel Schiff, Head, Department of Developmental Disabilities, Bar Ilan University, accompanied by teachers serving Tel Aviv and surrounding areas.


Photo 2: Featured are children in Jerusalem from Afikim which operates education enrichment centers for children and parental empowerment centers with the overall goal of empowering Israeli families to extricate themselves from the poverty cycle and become independent, productive members of society. (Back row, in the center, is Dr. Rosalind Horowitz, and to her left Moshe Lefkovitz, Executive Director, and children from Afikim an enrichment center for children and parents of poverty in Jerusalem)




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