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April 30, 1997
Professor Grace Ransom
Reading Specialist Dies at 80
By James Lytle

 LOS ANGELES -- Grayce A. Ransom, an authority on ways to develop children's proficiency in reading, died April 10 at a nursing home in Hillsboro, Ore. She was 80 and died of a stroke. For decades, Ransom worked to turn failure into success.

As director of the National Charity League-USC (NCL-USC) School in Hollywood for children with reading and learning disabilities, she transformed children who were doing poorly in school into enthusiastic, highly motivated youngsters - youngsters with the reading skills they needed to succeed.

"It's very exciting and fulfilling to take a child who can't cope with schooling and turn him into a normal, happy youngster," Ransom said in a March 1974 interview with the USC News Service. The NCL-USC School - jointly sponsored by the School of Education and the Los Angeles chapter of the National Charity League - claimed no magic formula for success. Because every person learns in a different way, Ransom explained, each student was evaluated individually.

Then the teacher prescribed work designed especially for the student, varying the learning routine according to the student's particular abilities and interests. Addressing a 1969 meeting of a Santa Monica Bay Area teachers' conference, Ransom urged educators to forsake mass reading instruction and concentrate on the individual student.

"You must personalize reading instruction if you hope to improve the quality of our schools," she said. During the 1960s and '70s, Ransom developed and refined a method of finding out what reading and writing skills a student has mastered, of determining what he has yet to learn, and of planning lessons and learning experiences accordingly.

Known as the Ransom Reading Management System, the method helped teachers to individualize instruction so that each student started at an appropriate level and proceeded at his own rate. After 10 years of field-testing, the Ransom system was adopted by schools throughout California in the early 1970s.

School districts, both in California and elsewhere, used Ransom's book on the system, Ransom Program: A Reading Management System, K-6, published in 1975 by the Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Her textbook Preparing to Teach Reading was published in 1978 by Little, Brown. Ransom also directed the USC Reading Center, an on-campus after-school program for second- through 12th-grade students from the local community who needed help to overcome reading and learning disabilities.

In the spring of 1972, Ransom appeared twice weekly on KNXT-TV (Channel 2) in a USC educational series titled "Reading: A Map to Adventure." The 36-installment series charted routes to a better understanding of the teaching and learning of reading. It presented the many facets of the learning-to-read process needed to ensure success for children from varied backgrounds and cultures.

"I can't think of enough good words to describe her," said Janet Eddy, director of disability services and programs at the USC Center for Academic Support (formerly the USC Learning Center). "She was kind and supportive. She was honest, open-minded and fair. She was creative and fun to be around.

You could come to her with any kind of concern, and she would take the time to give you a considered answer - an answer filled with practical information. She helped you to believe in yourself and your abilities and encouraged you to follow your ideals and goals.

Grayce Ransom was one of the really good people. I feel truly fortunate to have had her as a mentor." Ransom was a mentor to Eddy when Eddy was earning her master's degree at the School of Education in the mid-1970s. Ransom was born April 25, 1916, in Michigan City, Ind., to Irving and Louisa Annabel. She attended elementary and secondary schools in Three Oaks, Mich. Ransom earned an A.B. degree at Kalamazoo College, Michigan.

After earning a bachelor's degree in religious education at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, and a master's degree in education at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Ore., she taught in elementary schools in Portland and Los Angeles before completing her Ph.D. in education at the USC Graduate School in 1967.

Work toward her doctorate included a year's experiment with an audio-visual machine and programmed materials in reading programs for first-graders. Ransom joined the USC faculty as an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in 1967.

She was named director of the USC Reading Center in 1968, became a full professor in 1974 and chaired the USC department of curriculum and instruction from 1979 to 1981. Her research included a study of the use of multimedia in first-grade teaching; development of new assessment instruments for reading disabilities; studies in counseling techniques for remedial readers; preparation of master reading-skill taxonomy for computerized assessment and prescriptive teaching; and studies of the classroom behavior of remedial students.

Ransom was president from 1976 to 1977 of the California Reading Association, a group for reading teachers, and served on the board of the International Reading Association as well. Appointed by Gov. Brown, she was a member of a task force to develop a new framework for reading instruction in the California public schools.

For many years, Ransom lived in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. She was a member and elder of Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Boulevard, and was a leader of Christian education in her local congregation and at the presbytery level. After she retired from teaching in 1983, Ransom and her husband, John Seeley, moved to Beaverton, Ore. Seeley, who died in 1991, was Ransom's second husband.

Her first marriage, to John Ransom, ended in divorce in 1969. Survivors include daughters Judy Burney of Beaverton, Ore., and Janet Ransom of Venice, Calif.; son Kenneth Ransom of Portland, Ore.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Services were held April 19, at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland.

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