Lisa Palladino, 47, loves to read. She credits her love of reading to her parents reading to her throughout her childhood.
She is now sharing that love of reading with children at the Ballantyne Reading Academy, where she offers reading readiness skills and literacy instruction for beginning readers entering preschool and beyond.
Palladino, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a specialty in reading instruction from Stonehill College in Massachusetts, taught second grade in Walpole, Mass., before moving to Charlotte 14 years ago. She took several years off from the classroom, focusing on raising her two children (Giselle, 18, a freshman at Wake Forest University and Alec, 16, a junior at Audrey Kell High School) and volunteering in their schools.
As her children got older, Palladino began serving as a short- and long-term substitute teacher for CMS, but she concluded that was not a good fit for her.
“I felt there was more emphasis on testing than what I wanted to emphasize,” she says.
She remembers creating a two-week unit on snow when she taught second graders in Massachusetts because her class was mesmerized with a sudden snowstorm.
“We wrote stories about the snow, did science lessons on it, used it in math problems, and just dropped everything to go with it,” Palladino says, noting that she could not do that in today’s classroom.
After a short stint as a preschool director, Palladino knew she was at a crossroads.
Her husband, Scott, 47, asked her, “If you could do anything you want, what would you do?”
The answer was obvious.
“I love to teach kids to read,” Palladino responded. “It’s what I’m good at.”
But she wanted to do it on her terms.
“I didn’t just want to be a tutor,” she says. “I wanted it to be a place where children can come and learn, but have fun while they’re doing it and get excited about it.”
She did some market research and realized that there was an opening for what she wanted to provide.
“There was Mathnasium focused exclusively on math,” she says. “But nothing just for reading.”
The Ballantyne Reading Academy offers a variety of reading instruction, all customized for each child.
Palladino offers reading readiness skills for children ages 3 to 5 who are not yet reading, remediation for elementary school children who are struggling readers, and enrichment for students of any age who are not getting what they need in their classrooms.
Like any new small business owner, Palladino continues to tinker with her original idea. She has added penmanship classes because she feels that is no longer part of today’s public school curriculum. She is also offering writer’s workshops where she enlists local authors to do a lesson with her students.
In addition, Palladino has recently opened up her academy to homeschoolers during the day, offering group lessons geared particularly to them, since “it was sitting vacant during those hours.”
She has also added a blog to her website where she chronicles the progress she is making with her students and provides tips to parents on how to continue the reading initiatives at home.
The Ballantyne Reading Academy is set up with rocking chairs and lots of books, with the goal of coming across as a combination of a library, a classroom, and one’s home.
Each lesson always ends with Palladino or Bridgette Ruller, a former teacher who has come on board to teach with Palladino, reading each child a book.
“No matter how old you are,” Palladino says, “there’s something so nice about having a book read to you.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at email@example.com.
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