Thursday, December 19, 2013

Focused Summer Reading Groups in Augusta

Thanks to Leslie LaRose, the director of the Augusta Public Library (an institutional YSS member) for this guest post!

Early last spring a parent asked about a reading group for her primary-age son to help him stay motivated to read all summer.  After talking with the reading specialist for our school district, I decided to create book groups for children entering 1st through 4th grade during the next school year.  I wanted to focus enrollment on those kids who were in the lower reading levels for their grade, though anyone was welcome to join.   I got teachers to send a letter home with the children that could most benefit from some extra reading, and the school put the program into their summer school program catalog. 

Early on I had been encouraged by the reading specialist to stick to the schools reading levels (Fountas & Pinnell) when choosing books.  I looked into this as an option, but decided that I wanted to choose books that were probably not being used in the school's reading groups to also allow me to share some titles and characters with the groups that they may not have discovered previously.   I wanted to have the kids talking about their reading, about the authors and illustrators, comparing the books to others they had read--all of that great stuff that a Book Club does.  

Once sign up began, I realized that a Book Club atmosphere wouldn’t work because I had just two kids, both from the same grade but drastically different reading levels, sign up. I didn't realize until I was implementing the program just how much reading and preparation I'd have to do--I would order five books in as possible books for each of the 12 weeks we met and only one or two would suit the group.  I ended up reading maybe 50 books total for the summer!   I had a low level reader (somewhere around a 400 Lexile) and a high level (800 Lexile) both in second grade, these two were competitive.  They were active and spent all day together because one’s mother did summer child care for the other.    Neither wanted the group to feel like school, they were okay with reading on their own, but didn’t want to spend our group time, one hour a week, focused primarily on books. 

Instead, each week a new book was handed out; although, due to the size of two of the books, we did double up a few weeks.  Our group time was spent playing various games with sight words.  Pictionary, hang man, password,  for the weeks with Goldilocks weather we went outside and I had them collect words by racing to them and calling them out before turning them into me.  It kept the kids reading and willing to read through the entire summer.  Both mothers said that it was the first summer in many that they didn’t have to struggle to get the kids reading.  They wanted to read the assigned books so that they were ready for the next meeting. 

This interest and willingness to read was a key objective of what I had wanted for the summer and so I am able to say I accomplished what I had meant to in the program.  I do think that I want to offer the program again next summer, planning games as well as more discussion into each week’s meeting.  

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