Borden-King feels a sense of community at MSU

When Lisa Borden-King arrived at Minot State University in 1997, a clinic that served kids with reading difficulties was well-established but had between five and 15 students attending.

Now, 15 years later, the clinic run by undergraduate and graduate students in MSU’s education department is full and there is a waiting list of 50 to 80 kids.

“When I came we were getting mostly teacher referrals,” said Borden-King, director of the office of teacher advisement and field placement at Minot State. She said the program grew after the department sent out letters to area schools advertising its services and more people started hearing about the clinic.

Borden-King said many kids have a real need for services but her ability to serve them is limited by the size of the classes. She has 25 students in her undergraduate classes and 10 in graduate classes who work with the reading clinic.

The reading clinic requires that the children being served receive one-on-one attention geared towards their specific reading problem, which limits the number of kids that the MSU students can work with.

“It’s a very individualized program,” said Borden-King, who said the reading clinic can help kids who might not be getting all the help they need at school. Some children are referred to the clinic by parents or teachers who aren’t quite sure how to help a particular kid with a reading problem.

“There are always kids who fall through the cracks,” she said.

Borden-King, a former kindergarten teacher who later moved into academia, said it is one of her dreams to expand the reading clinic at the university to serve even more people with reading problems.

“That’s my goal in life,” said Borden-King. “What I would truly love to see in the end is a community literacy center.”

Barring that, she’d like to be able to expand the summer program to serve more people.

Borden-King said a literacy center might help people of all ages. Borden-King has served as a volunteer tutor for some of those people.

One of the people she tutored was a man in his 30s who was functionally illiterate but badly wanted to learn how to read, said Borden-King, who worked with him.

Reading is an important skill for the obvious reasons, such as passing a driver’s license test or getting a better job, said Borden-King, but the man she tutored most wanted to learn how to read because he felt left out of the world.

Borden-King said he wanted to be able to read all of the signs he saw in the hallway and asked her to tell him what they said. In a print-rich world, a person who can’t read won’t be able to read instructions to put something together at work or the signs he sees in the community.

More adults in the Minot area have trouble with reading than people might expect, said Borden-King, who said illiteracy might be a problem if someone has dropped out of high school or had a reading difficulty that was never addressed when they were in school.

Borden-King works with adults who want to learn how to read because people sometimes approach her for help and because teaching is one of the things she’s good at and likes to do.

Borden-King said she always keeps an eye out for funding sources that might help the university expand its services and help her meet her goal of expanding the program.

She said such a program should be self-sustaining once any grant or donation runs out, though. Charging fees for their services at the reading clinic is problematic because so many of the families they serve are low income. The program charges $10 for materials in the summer and probably only collected the fee from half of the families it served, she said.

Borden-King also often confers with teachers in area school systems and her education students work in area classrooms.

Borden-King won an award from the North Dakota Education Association Ready Child Community Based Award in 2009 for her work with reading.

“This is what I’m proudest of,” she said, gesturing at the trophy she keeps in her office. Borden-King said it felt great to be recognized by teachers who recognize the work that she does.

Borden-King said she moved over to university teaching because she liked the idea of impacting future teachers. Each one of her students will go on to impact a class of more than 20 young kids each year.

Borden-King said she also likes to read as a hobby and enjoys science fiction and mysteries, but she usually only has time to read them when classes aren’t in session.

The rest of the year she is too busy teaching others how to teach reading.

Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to