Some days it seems like the school year is never going to end, but summer will be here before we know it. Maybe you are already planning to take your family on vacation or have been investigating summer camps for your kids. Our students on our Title I campus rarely have such opportunities and instead spend the summer loosing much of the learning from the previous year. Over the last two years we have taken several steps to help our students avoid the summer slide. This short two minute video is a great illustration of why it is vital that we work to keep our students learning over the summer.
Based on census data we realized that our students in our community live in an official “book desert” meaning that they have little access to books in their homes. We know from research by Kim in 2004 that if students in upper elementary/middle school read just a few books (4-5) books over the summer that scores on reading tests from spring to fall will not show declines. We knew it was important to provide as much access to books as we could. That is the major focus of our summer project.
Library Access: We knew we wanted to allow students access to our school library over the summer. Our library is open one day a week for a couple of hours all summer. Students with wi-fi also have access to our e-book collection all summer.
Steps to Take Now: We are working now to secure staff volunteers who are willing to man the library and to train them on check-out systems. In our district we must also request air conditioning on the days we will be open. We advertise this to our families in school communications. Last summer our librarian arranged to have some outside programs for students on some days. These were volunteer service programs like scouts working on advanced badges.
Bookmobile: Once a month for June, July, and August we turned our principal’s van into a bookmobile. We loaded up boxes and boxes of books to deliver to students. Each student who visited was able to select 5 books to keep. We advertised our dates, times, and stops in advance. We selected popular spots such as the neighborhood pools and the entrances to large apartment complexes. We were able to talk with students and help them select their books. We reminded parents of the importance of having their children read 20 minutes every day.
Steps to Take Now: This was by far the project that took the most preparation time. We began collecting books much earlier this year. In our school district we have a sister schools program. The Student Council of our Sister School held a book drive to donate to our school. They are doing this again this year. We used our Title I funds to purchase books. This year we have two other groups that selected our school to be the recipient of their service projects which were also book drives (one is a group of retired teachers and the other is an educational sorority). The educational sorority has written a grant to help us get more books and to run more parent trainings in conjunction with the bookmobile.
Read Tac Toe: We wanted to do something to encourage our students to read once they had books. Although we are not subscribers to incentives for reading in the forms of prizes, we did think that a little game might help keep some interest. We used a tic tac toe board to encourage reading in different places or novel activities. In the fall students who earned a tic tac toe received a brag tag and students who earned a black out had a lunch with me. They brought their own lunches to our hallway tables. We had photo props for them to do a photo booth and they each selected a new book. We talked about reading and our favorite reading activities.
Steps to Take Now: Take time now to customize your board, determine any incentives, and put in for printing. We also have to have our document translated into Spanish before printing.
Family Education: This is an area we know we need to grow in. Last year we did use the video from above to show parents the importance of summer reading. We promoted all of our summer reading activities on social media and school communications. We also prepared folders for all of students that had all related information. In the folder was a newsletter loaded with information, the tic tac toe board, computer log-in information for web based programs the students have summer access to. There was information on free web based programs such as Camp Wonderopolis and the free Star Walk Kids pop-up library. Information on our local library was included as well as library card applications.
Steps to Take Now: Create newsletter, gather information, order folders, and begin printing information. Contact local library for information on summer reading programs and to see if they can visit the campus to promote library use over the summer. Order folders if you are using them. (Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like a copy of the newsletter we sent.)
Preparing the Students: The most important aspect of summer reading is preparing the students. When should you begin preparing them? Beginning on the first day of school. The book No More Summer Reading Loss by Carrie Cahill, reminds us of this in a way that may make you say, “Ouch,” but is an area we as educators need to reflect on:
“The lack of student reading during the summer is actually a reflection of how we have taught them to be independent readers during the school year.” (page 4)
Teachers need to plan time to set summer reading goals with student and to teach them to make reading plans over the summer. One of our teachers last year had students bring beach towels and decorated her class like a beach for the last two days to have a beach reading party to get students ready for summer reading. If students see themselves as readers, they will want to continue reading over the summer.
Steps to Take Now: Consider reading No More Summer Reading Loss by Carrie Cahill, think about minilessons you can deliver near the end of the year to encourage summer reading and reflect on how your students are becoming independent readers.
Start preparing now to help your students avoid the summer slide this year. I am very interested in hearing about your great ideas to help keep students reading in the summer.
Living the Workshop with You,
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