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May Literacy Tip

Hello Colleagues,
What are you reading these days?  My dear friend and proofreader, Marilyn Kelly, recommended Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, also author of Seabiscuit.  Unbroken brings to life the true story of an Olympian and World War II hero, an airman who survived as a POW (prisoner of war) in numerous Japanese camps.  It is an excellent story of survival and resilience, a compelling read I highly recommend.  Thank you Marilyn!
 
My husband, also a fan of WW II selections, recently read Code Talker by Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avila.  The book is the first and only memoir by one of the original WWII Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez.  Code Talker not only tells of Chester Nez’s life but also explains how the Navajos created a secret military language, the only unbroken code in modern warfare, to help assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.
 
I recently asked a principal during a coaching conversation.  “What will happen to the reading habits of your students during the summer months?  How do they have access to books?”  As summer draws near the reading time for many adults increases while the reading time for many students decrease.  This is an unfortunate turn of events because research clearly indicates that children who do not read over the summer lose months of reading achievement.  Children must read six books over the summer to maintain their current reading levels.  Those who read more can actually gain reading skill over the summer.  Summer reading loss is greater for low-socioeconomic students; the lack of access to books is the major cause of regression for students in poverty.
 
It’s Not Too Late to implement an accessible and engaging summer reading program for all ages.  Begin by having conversations with students about the materials (books, newspaper articles, brochures) you read; encourage student-to-student talk about their reads.  Reader talk not only increases comprehension and engagement but also encourages interest in more reading.  The Chat and Go strategy (Strategies to Engage the Mind of the Learner, p. 133) allows students to informally converse about their readings by answering an open-ended question selected from a list of questions.  This strategy encourages readers to explore new genres, authors, and topics.
 
Other ideas include:

  • Contact the public library near your school and ask them to share summer reading opportunities with students.  If possible take a field trip to the public library to ensure that all students have a library card.  Introduce students to the librarian and teach them how to find and check out books.
  • Start student book clubs and encourage meetings at the school library throughout the summer.  Invite parents; they might enjoy participating in their own book club.
  • Allow students to check out school or classroom library books; schools might staff the library one evening a week throughout the summer so children can return their books and check out new ones.  Schools with summer lunch programs can provide daytime access to the library.
  • Ask students (before the school year ends) to complete several postage-paid postcards to themselves reminding themselves to read (and to return the books to the library).  These can be dropped in the mail periodically throughout the summer.

As I’ve worked with educators throughout the country, there is a consistent theme – educators are working hard to help all students score well on their statewide assessments.  If educators are not creating summer reading opportunities for all students, their reading will regress, and educator’s hard work goes to waste.  We cannot afford to let this happen; begin now to create summer readers.

Do you have a colleague that would enjoy these monthly updates?  Please forward this Literacy Tip to them.  Interested readers can go to www.rachelbillmeyer.com to sign up for future Literacy Tips. 

Check out the Literacy and Learning Trilogy at www.rachelbillmeyer.com.  Start the 2014-2015 with a strong literacy focus; consider ordering books for pre-opening workshop.  Have a safe and relaxing summer.

Happy Reading,
Rachel