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Rebekah Williams, a 2019 Cedarville University graduate, student teaches at an elementary school.

New Courses Teach Multisensory Approach for Struggling Readers

by Lauren McGuire, Student Public Relations Writer

Dr. Ruth Sylvester working at her deskTwo new courses, offered as electives in the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022, will help change the way Cedarville University students are able to help teach and tutor individuals with reading difficulties.

Intensive Multisensory Literacy Instruction I will be offered starting fall of 2021, with a follow-up course offered in the spring, both taught by Dr. Ruth Sylvester, professor of literacy instruction. The course focuses on using intensive multisensory methods.

These classes will help prepare future educators to work closely with students who struggle learning to read. “For students with atypical reading difficulties, just learning the sounds that are represented by letters isn’t enough,” said Sylvester. “They need to use as many senses as possible to retain the memory of what that letter looks like.”

Multisensory methods can include things like reading textbooks aloud, tapping out sounds, story sticks that help students visualize elements of a story, or word sorting.

Although only 6% of the population has severe reading difficulties, the state of Ohio has broadened what it defines as dyslexia to incorporate lesser degrees of reading difficulty, so that may be as much as 20% of the population. 

In the spring, the course will incorporate tutoring. “For special education majors, this is ideal for them,” said Sylvester. “They have to know how to work one-on-one with those who have severe reading difficulties.”

In the state of Ohio, it’s now a requirement for reading teachers who have students with reading difficulties to implement an intensive multisensory literacy approach. “It is much more defined and rigorous than traditional reading instruction.”

These new courses will be helpful to special education majors obtaining an Intervention Specialist License, other disciplines such as social work, which may require one-on-one interaction with students who require reading instruction, linguistics majors and minors, and anyone who desires to support students who are impacted by dyslexia or have difficulty learning to read. 

For more information, contact Sylvester at

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,550 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including its Bachelor of Arts in Special Education program, strong graduation, and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visit

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