Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Summer Reading - Not Lists But Books

“Will we choose to address narrowing the reading achievement gap by providing kids with books to read during the summers, or will we continue to do largely nothing in this regard?  The kids are waiting for the answer

~ Allington and McGill-Franzen

Inventory and summer reading lists.  In my first years as a school librarian these were my major end of year to-do items.   Recently I have come to realize that these practices have very little to do with improving student reading achievement. In fact they do nothing to address the single biggest threat to reading development - summer reading loss.

Stopping Summer Reading Loss

(image from First Book)

The research of Richard Allington indicates that up to 80% of the reading achievement gap is due to summer reading loss (also known as the summer slide).  Allington's work is so compelling to us at College Community we have launched the first step in a K-6 Summer reading intervention program. The ideas in Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap and No More Summer Reading Loss (part of the Not This, But That series from Heinemann) helped us to design a simple solution with potentially high impact - providing kids with access to summer reading material.

The key drivers of this intervention:

  • Student Choice (from a fantastic selection of high interest books)
  • Independent Reading level (they can read these at 95% accuracy or better)
  • Home Access (the books, 10 of them, become part of their home library- FOREVER)
  • Summer scaffolds and support – using the best practices in literacy education from the school year to support independent summer reading.  This can take the form of bookmarks, videos, postcards, connecting on Edmodo and more.
More details about our work at Prairie Creek are available in this article from American Libraries magazine. I realize time is short so it is probably too late to get this level of programming in place at your district for the summer of 2014 (however, I encourage you to begin this conversation soon for the summer of 2015).  There are still ways to ramp up access to reading using our library collections.

Do It Yourself Summer Reading List (and checkout).

"Does your school ensure that every child has taken at least 10 books out from the school library on the final day of school? There is nothing more problematic, for me, than kids with no books to read and schools with libraries filled with books that no one will read over the summer. So my advice always begins with “Empty out your school library before the final day of school.”  ~ Richard Allington

 In the final days of the school year I will be guiding all of my students to make their own summer reading lists.  The list alone doesn't ensure that kids will have access to the actual books.  That is where the school library collection comes into play.

You May Also Like
With their reading logs from literacy class in hand we will use suggestion tools such as the "you may also like" feature in Destiny Quest.

Children's Choice
I have stockpiled the 2014-15 Iowa Children's Choice list and will be promoting these titles for inclusion on their customized list using book trailers and book talks easily accessed through our statewide access to (thanks to the AEAs!).

(poster created by my colleague Marcus Hora @mhorateach)

There must be dozens of ways to guide children to develop their own personalized summer reading lists based on the available titles in our school libraries.  I will be inviting my students to check out their booklist from the Prairie Creek library. Having the entire library collection be dormant in the summer months will not advance one child forward on their reading journey.

Beyond the Print Book

Searching beyond the school library collection opens up more options. Many of our students own devices that can provide hours of reading (and writing) time. We can mentor kids beyond Flappy Birds to apps and online reading environments that connect with the social nature of literacy. We don't need to be the experts. I recently posted this question to a 6th grade class " What is one Reading App everyone should have?"  Their responses were unanimous - Wattpadd.

These are a few of the ways I will move toward making best practices in literacy part of the library program. This shift will do much to prepare students for an enjoyable summer of reading. 

All the summer reading lists circulating through social media and the internet are great 
  • if you can get to the public library,
  • if you can purchase books at the local independent bookstore, 
  • if your parents can order books on Amazon. 

These are not options for every student.  That school library inventory will have to wait until September. Getting serious about addressing the leading cause of summer reading loss is far more important work.

I look forward to hearing about your great ideas to stop the summer slide.  

~ posted by Ernie Cox