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Lillie Pope, PhD (June 22, 1918 – October 26, 2015) was a pioneer in special education, with a focus on literacy, learning problems, learning and reading disabilities. She was the founding director of the earliest Learning Center as part of the Mental Health Service at a public hospital. She was the author of books and producer of films to guide in prevention and remediation of learning problems.
Dr. Pope was born in Manhattan, but grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She attended Brooklyn College, transferring to Hunter College, where she received her BA. Immediately after graduating college in 1937, at the age of 19, she began working as a teacher in public schools.
During her professional career as a teacher, she was elected to the office of Vice President of the Vocational High School Teachers Association as well as to the office of Vice President of the Teachers Union. In the 1940s, equipment was lacking for effective teaching, class sizes were abnormally large, and trade teachers taught eight periods daily compared to their academic colleagues who carried a five period daily load. Her efforts led to reduced class sizes and teaching loads, and to improved equipment in the shop classes.
She left the public school system in 1952 and earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at New York University. After several years as an Educational Psychologist in a hospital setting, she pioneered in establishing the first Learning Center in a mental health setting in this country (and arguably in the world) for students with learning problems. A mental health setting is important because emotional problems often interfere with learning and, conversely, difficulty in learning causes emotional problems. Her center served as a model for many that followed. She worked closely with the schools, guiding teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers and parents in how to help their students become readers.
Working in an impoverished area in Coney Island, she employed and trained neighborhood women to assist in this work; the beneficial impact on them, as on the children whom they served, was enormous. A number of these women went back to school and gained careers in education. While there, she employed the Bread and Puppet Theatre as part of the therapeutic program for children served by the clinic. She retired from the mental health center as Associate Chief of Child Psychiatry. Dr. Pope, Diplomate in School Psychology, has served as a consultant to educational and mental health agencies, and as Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn College and New York University.
She has published many books, as well as papers in professional journals, and her speaking engagements and workshops have been numerous. Importantly, she was the Keynote Speaker at the International Conference of the United Electrical Workers; her address was published as a pamphlet by the United Electrical Workers and also translated into Spanish, as a guide to the workers on how to understand and deal with the learning problems of their children. She also was the Keynote Speaker several times at the Atlantic Conference on Learning Disabilities in Halifax, Canada, and conducted training workshops there as well. She produced three 16 mm. films, and The Psycho-Educational Battery, circulated on request to teachers in the United States and Canada; these guided teachers in diagnosing and remediating the needs of learners who need assistance.
As Educational Director and Vice-President of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, Dr. Pope facilitated thousands of programs in schools and public libraries in the 50 states by providing grants for programs that encourage literacy, creativity, and joy in learning.
She was married to Martin Pope.
Honors and awards
Honoree, The Clara Lemlich Award for Social Activism, 2011, which honors women who have been working for the larger good all their lives.
Honoree, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 2007, for innovative and effective support of children’s literature.
Hunter College Hall of Fame, 1997
Mary Hornby award for distinguished contributions in the field of learning disabilities, Atlantic Conference for Learning Disabilities, 1981.
Council for Exceptional Children, Outstanding Service Award, 1990
Fellowship, National Institute of Mental Health, 1966-67.
Guidelines for Teaching Remedial Reading to the Disadvantaged (Book-Lab, 1967)
Psycho-Educational Evaluation of the Pre-School Child (Grune and Stratton,1972) (also in Spanish and Italian)
Tutor’s Sampler (Book-Lab, 1973)
Issues in Urban Education and Mental Health (Book-Lab, 1974)
Pope-Dinola Word Bank (New Directions Press, 1977)
Special Needs, Special Answers (Book-Lab, 1979)
Guidelines for Teaching Children with Learning Problems (Book-Lab, 1982)
Guidelines for Teaching Remedial Reading, a Holistic Approach (Book-Lab, 1996)
Word Play: A Dictionary of Idioms (Book-Lab, 1998)
Teach Anyone to Read: The No-Nonsense Guide (EJK Publishing, 2008)
Tests and instruments for evaluation
PEB: Psycho-Educational Battery (Book-Lab, 1976) Inventory of Reading Skills (Book-Lab, 1974)
Introductory Course in Learning Disabilities, a five session taped course (Book-Lab, 1976)
Films and videos
All for One – Tutorial Highlights (Single Concepts, 1973)
Let’s Look at Sounding Out (Single Concepts, 1973)
Evaluation for Educational Planning (Video-Time Productions, 1976)
Ten Module Tutorial in Reading Instruction for Volunteers (Lilrob Productions, 1992)
- "Lillie Bellin Pope, Co-Founder of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, Dies at 97". Children's Book Council (United States). 10 November 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.