Students participating in Word Detectives, a summer reading program hosted

Speech and Language Programs

Word Detectives Summer Reading Program

Note: We are still accepting applications for the Summer 2024 session.


The Northeastern University Speech-Language and Hearing Center offers a summer reading program: Word Detectives. Word Detectives provides small group instruction for students entering 2nd – 6th grade who are reading below grade level. The program offers high-quality remedial instruction and content engagement to ensure reading skills remain intact over the critical out-of-school months.

Program Schedule and Details

For Foundational and Rising Readers, the Word Detectives program integrates specialized reading instruction with daily, engaging enrichment activities. Following registration, a review of each student’s records and a complete assessment are conducted to formulate a reading profile. Scores from assessments are used to create specialized instructional groups of similar skill profiles. A description of our Transitional Readers/Writers instructional program can be found in the Curriculum Instruction section below.

During the half-day program, children participate in two instructional sessions designed to meet their learning needs. All students receive one hour of instruction in an evidence-based explicit phonics program such as Wilson or Orton Gillingham. During the second instructional session, students receive explicit instruction using components of the RAVE-O program to develop their fluency skills. Based on their learning profile, students may also receive explicit instruction in sight word recognition, reading comprehension, and/or support with written expression.

All learners will enjoy a snack, activity break, and engaging enrichment activities like art projects and science experiments.

Daily Schedule*
9:00-10:30amFirst Instructional Session
10:30-11:30amSnack and Activity Break
11:30-12:30pmSecond Instructional Session

* Early drop-off beginning at 8:00 am is available for an additional fee of $15/day.

Application Forms

Please submit both the application and the teacher input form, along with any other relevant evaluation materials or IEP documents.

We are still accepting applications for Summer 2024.

2024 Session Schedule and Dates

Students who register commit to attending all dates of the program.

July 8-11 (Monday – Thursday)
July 15-18 (Monday – Thursday)
July 22-25 (Monday – Thursday)
July 29-Aug 1 (Monday – Thursday)
Aug 2 (Friday — Post program assessment by appointment)

Program Tuition: $2400
Applications will be reviewed as they are received and students will be accepted on a rolling basis until the program is full.

Once accepted, a $400 deposit is required to secure a spot in the program. Full tuition is due no later than March 15, 2024.

Since spaces are limited, the following outlines the program firm refund policy:
For cancellations received before or on April 30th, 90% of the cost will be refunded. Cancellations between May 1st and May 14th will result in a 50% refund. Cancellations received after May 14th will not receive a refund.


Suite 503
Speech-Language and Hearing Center
Behrakis Health Sciences Center
30 Leon St.
Boston, MA 02115

Wondering what to do after Word Detectives at 1:00 p.m.?

Check out Math Masters!

Open to Everyone

Curriculum Instruction

The Word Detectives program offers a multi-dimensional approach to reading instruction that focuses on development of skills essential to learning as well as reading. The program incorporates practices proven essential to effective summer instruction including small class sizes, use of evidence-based instruction, parental involvement, and ongoing progress monitoring. In addition, the program embeds research-based motivational strategies, designed to encourage persistence, engagement, and independent learning into every aspect of instruction. Along these lines, we have formulated general instructional plans and goals for the different types of students who participate in our program.

Foundational Readers
These readers are students entering the 2nd or 3rd grade with emerging phonics and sight word abilities. The goal of summer instruction for these students is to continue building foundational skills including short and long vowel sounds, consonant blends, and sight word knowledge. Instruction will include components of the RAVE-O program paired with a systematic phonics program (such as Orton Gillingham or Wilson Reading). Together these programs will emphasize decoding skills, reading fluency, comprehension, and spelling. Students will also receive explicit instruction in phonological/phonemic awareness and sight word recognition. Students will have opportunities to apply their skills to decodable texts using best practices in the field.

Rising Readers
These readers are students entering 3rd through 6th grade with emerging foundational phonics, sight word, fluency, and comprehension abilities. Instruction will include components of the RAVE-O program paired with a systematic phonics program such as Orton Gillingham or Wilson Reading. The goal of summer instruction for these students is to continue developing their foundational knowledge while engaging their interests with developmentally appropriate texts.

Transitional Readers/Writers
These readers are students entering 3rd through 6th grade whose reading difficulties have been largely remediated.  Reading skills may be at or above grade level, but persistent difficulties with spelling and/or written expression may remain.  The goal of summer instruction for these students is to continue developing their higher-level reading comprehension skills while engaging them in interesting literacy projects that require them to respond in writing.  Instruction will include a systematic multi-sensory phonics program (such as Wilson Reading or Just Words) with a focus on applying developed phonics skills to spelling.  This will be coupled with multi-sensory writing instruction (using programs such as Framing Your Thoughts, Landmark Writing Program, or Empower). 

Having a child with dyslexia is difficult for your child and highly stressful for their parents. You want to do the best thing for your child, and we found this with the word detectives program. Their individualized approach helped my son to be more confident and improve his reading score, and he had fun working hard. The teachers are excellent and connect with the children to make reading fun.



As an educator and parent, I was extremely pleased with the Word Detectives summer program. I am delighted with how our daughters were embraced, nurtured, and supported by the staff and teachers. My daughters were excited to go to camp each day and benefitted from the instruction and sense of camaraderie fostered amongst the camp participants. The combination of teaching methods along with the expert instructional team allowed my children to excel both academically and personally. I have witnessed important gains in my daughters’ literacy as well as in their confidence as learners. I am so glad that they participated in Word Detectives.


2021 Word Detectives Parent

Word Detectives Camp was a wonderful experience for our third-grader. Simon become a more competent and confident reader and had a great time learning. More than that, he learned to take initiative and be responsible for his own learning. He is now setting and working towards goals in everything from gymnastics to teaching his parents Minecraft. What a transformation!



My ten-year-old really enjoyed Northeastern Word Detectives. He participated in the 2020 online small group learning experience (due to the pandemic). During the sessions, I could hear my son talking and being actively involved. The teacher was wonderful at engaging the students. My son enjoyed the games and activities and said he liked meeting “new people” (the other classmates). I feel that the program helped him learn skills for reading in an engaging and enjoyable way.




Our aim is to increase participants’ reading and spelling skills. Particularly, we seek to prevent summer regression in academic skills, while fostering feelings of autonomy, belonging, competence, and meaning. We want to increase students’ motivation to engage in challenging tasks while working collaboratively and having fun!

In addition to the use of evidence-based reading interventions such as the Wilson Reading System and RAVE-O, our program embeds research based motivational strategies, designed to encourage persistence, engagement, tolerance for challenging tasks, and independent learning. Our motivational strategies are centered around four themes – autonomy, belonging, competence, and meaning. Many of the academic activities that reinforce these themes are borrowed from the Responsive Classroom program. To learn more about the motivational strategies we implement, please see this article that Dr. Melissa Orkin and her team published regarding the motivational strategies that we use within our instruction.

Children attend our program for a variety of reasons. Some are diagnosed with formal learning disabilities, while others are just “behind” compared to their peers. Our application process is designed to ensure that the program is a “good fit” for your child’s learning needs. Applications and supporting materials are reviewed by the Program Directors on a rolling basis. Parents and teachers are often contacted to clarify the family’s educational goals, as well as the child’s learning history and developmental profile.

We emphasize to families that our program is only 16 days long and we are realistic about the types of gains we can expect students to make in such a short period of time. Our ultimate goal is to prevent regression in skills while fostering the potential for growth in foundational literacy skills. We measure success in a variety of ways. Students are given a limited number of standardized post-assessments at the end of the program. Most of the students make progress on one or more measures of word reading, fluency, or comprehension.

However, we also encourage families to notice and celebrate other, less measurable areas of growth, such as a greater awareness of environmental print (signs, labels, instructions), increased confidence as a reader, increased willingness to read or write independently, and/or greater flexibility in your child’s approach to challenges and mistake-making. Sometimes families report to us that although their child’s scores did not increase dramatically, their child had an easier transition to the new school year or began to pick up skills with greater speed in the fall. In our opinion, these changes are all important markers of growth.

Research Opportunity

Children enrolled in the Word Detectives Program have the opportunity to participate in a language study with the Language Acquisition and Brain Lab (QLAB) directed by Dr. Zhenghan Qi. Participation entails an interactive computer game where children discover a fictional world and its characters while exploring new sites, sounds, and languages.  Each student will spend 30 minutes during the first week and 30 minutes during the last week of Word Detectives participating in the games. This study is built on past research showing that individuals’ implicit learning abilities are indicators of one’s language and reading skills, and such abilities are potentially malleable with growing language and reading experiences (Hu et al., 2023; Qi et al., 2019; Ozernov-Palchik et al., 2023).

1. Ozernov-Palchik O., Qi Z., Beach S.D., & Gabrieli J.D.E. (2023). Intact procedural memory and impaired auditory statistical learning in adults with dyslexia. Neuropsychologia.188:108638. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2023.108638.

2. Hu A., Kozloff V., Owen Van Horne A., Chugani D., & Qi Z. (2023). Dissociation between linguistic and nonlinguistic statistical learning in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-023-05902-1.

3. Qi Z., Sanchez Araujo Y., Georgan W. C., Gabrieli J.D.E., & Arciuli J. (2019). Hearing matters more than seeing: A cross-modality study of statistical learning and reading ability. Scientific Studies of Reading, J. DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2018.1485680