What's in the Truck? ~ A Different Approach to Summer Reading

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars again with some more insight into summer reading through the book Summer Reading by Richard Allington.

Imagine this scene:

It's a hot July day, and kids in rural areas are outside playing and enjoying some fun with family.  This old truck comes up the road and stops right in front of their house.

They come running to it with excitement!

The teacher gets out of the truck and begins talking to the children and adults at the house about the books they read the past week.  After the children return their books from the week before, they choose five new books they can and would like to read for the next week.

Smiles light up everyone's face during this visit!

This is exactly what one high poverty rural county in Florida has done for many summers.  Their teachers work together to ensure that students have access to appropriate reading material by driving the "bookmobile" into these rural areas.  Before the children choose new books, the teacher surveys them about what they read, liked, and didn't like.  Then the students choose 5 new books to read for the next week.

What were the findings?

1.  Students who participated full time (7-10 weeks) showed the most progress.

2.  Though it didn't increase fluency or sight word knowledge, it did affect the self-concept of each child probably because they were able to choose their own books at the appropriate level.

3.  Comprehension scores of full time participants saw gains.

4.  Though students did not achieve on grade level gains by the end of the summer, they still made gains, which eliminated the "summer slide".

Is this effective?

Yes, it is effective to some extent!  There were some gains with this model, but there needs to be more intensive interventions to make significant gains in students in poverty.

Where do we go from here?

The school that started the program has continued to have weekly book visits but have also incorporated a one-on-one tutoring intervention.  This has been extremely effective, both economically and for the students.

How might this model suit your school?

Would your colleagues share in helping you with a project like this?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.  And join us again tomorrow as we continue our book study of Summer Reading:  Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap by Richard Allington.



Why I Will NOT Pick My Students' Books For Them Anymore

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

Yes, I am guilty, and I bet I'm not the only one. I confess that I am a teacher who has selected books for my students' independent reading. Not as a general practice, really, but in a pinch when a child needed a book and didn't have time to pick or when he/she picked one that was too easy or too difficult to read. In fact, I've probably done it multiple times. Ironically, this was a discussion I had with a few teacher friends and our librarian at the beginning of the summer *before* I read this book. We talked about whether students should be "locked into their level" or allowed to pick freely, even when a book is beyond them. So, where would you fall in this discussion? Do you allow students to take books that are too hard, or do you limit them to books in their range, or do you give them one of each? In chapter four of Summer Reading, we learn there are reasons why we need to allow students to make book choices for themselves, but guiding their decision making is perfectly fine, especially if the child isn't aware of book levels.

Think about this quote for a minute and reflect back to your experiences as a child. Hopefully you remember how exciting it was to go to the library to pick just what you wanted to read. Perhaps you have children of your own and can relate to this quote too.  Choosing what you want to read has power, and completing those books creates pride.

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

At the beginning of chapter four, Dr. Allington discusses how important it is that we as teachers learn about our students' interests and about books that match them in order to help guide students to make good choices. We can learn about our students' preferences through interest inventories, group discussions, and from watching what they choose during library visits. Talking with your students while they're reading the book also helps the teacher know whether the genre or topic is a good fit too.  

So what does the research show?  Dr. Allington shared a study of 300 Black students in a urban school with a high percentage of low income students. The students were allowed to "shop" for books at a book fair that they were allowed to take home for summer reading (and keep).  Each was allowed to pick fifteen books, and during the "shopping" experiene, the student conversations were recorded. The students were very excited, and interestingly, the most popular titles selected by the students were about pop artists, cartoon superheroes, about places they were familiar with, the Captain Underpants series, and believe it or not, nonfiction which is atypical from other studies. They chose books that "reflected media and mass marketing interests". 

Once the students had made their selections, they were interviewed about how choices were made. In the interviews, one young lady shared that she thought Hilary Duff was "cool and liked how she dressed."  She shared the reason she chose the book was that she wanted to learn more about her. Superheroes were also popular because a few had seen movies about Incredible Hulk and Spiderman, so they picked Captain Underpants and How to Draw Spiderman. Luckily, teachers will be glad to know that some students shared that they chose based on read alouds their teachers had read to them or books they'd talked about in class, books the teacher recommended, or because a friend or relative had read the title.

So how have you established a reading culture in your classroom?  Please share your teacher tested ideas for others to consider, and be sure to return tomorrow for chapter five.  Andrea will talk to you about "Taking to the Streets!"  Sounds like a chapter you won't want to miss!



Preventing Summer Reading Loss: What Really Works?

Hello Royal Readers! This week we are discussing the book Summer Reading by Richard Allington and Anne Mc-Gill-Frazen. Yesterday Andrea shared the what the research says about summer reading and economically disadvantaged children. You can read that post {here}. Today, we'll focus on chapter three.

What Have We Learned about Addressing Summer Reading Loss?

This chapter takes an in-depth look at summer reading programs and the potential they demonstrated in addressing summer reading loss. Each summer program was conducted as a study with a treatment group and a control group.

In the first study, students from high poverty elementary schools were invited to attend spring book fairs.

The project targeted books that students could read at their independent level (99% accuracy with phrasing and expression).

Additionally, the books fit into four broad categories: popular series, popular culture, culturally relevant, and curriculum relevant.

Children were given free rein to select the books they wanted to read during the summer.

Overall this program demonstrated that providing self-selected summer reading materials improves reading achievement.

Another study was conducted with summer school students.  One group of the students participated in a summer reading club for 30-60 minutes of the day while others did not.

The reading club participants gained more in reading levels, reading accuracy, and fluency than their counterparts.

In yet another study, books were mailed out to students weekly over the summer. Prior to the start of summer, one group of students participated lessons at school that modeled oral reading and comprehension strategies.

Results of the study showed that students in this group scored significantly higher than the control groups.

What Does It Mean?

The findings of these studies suggest that voluntary summer reading may help close the rich/poor reading achievement gap. By increasing the amount of voluntary reading children did over the summer months summer reading loss was eliminated and growth was made.

Discussion Question

How could information presented in this chapter be used to improve the summer reading program at your school?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.  

Stop back each day this week for additional information on Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap.



Summer Reading ~ What the Research Says

Happy summer, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars!  Even though my summer is coming to a close, I am still enjoying every moment I can of it.

Yesterday, Carla shared reasons that children in poverty suffer more from reading loss over the summer from the book Summer Reading by Richard Allington.  You can read that post by clicking {here}.

Today I will focus on chapter 2, which shares research findings for interventions that brought some help with summer slide to students in poverty.

After using rigorous methods to find research that had already been conducted, they came up with these 8 categories for the outcomes.

1.  attitudes toward reading
2.  motivation to read
3.  reading behavior
4.  basic language skills
5.  emergent literacy skills
6.  reading performance
7.  writing performance
8.  general academic performance

The bottom line


From all of the many research the authors dug through, they used the most rigorous ones to show their data.  They found what we all probably already know:

"Providing books and magazines to children - either by lending the materials to them or by giving them the materials to keep - improves their attitudes toward reading, the amount of reading that they do, their acquisition of basic literacy skills, and their reading performance."  (Allington, 2013)  

In the next few posts, find out how different studies in different schools worked for their communities and how the children fared with their summer reading.  I love some of the ideas and how the interventions worked for these communities, so you won't want to miss them!

How has your school handled summer reading?  

What are some things you can do to help prevent summer slide?

And don't forget to come back tomorrow and the rest of the week to read more!



Five Reasons Poor Children Suffer More from Summer Learning Loss

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

Did you notice the title of this post?  Well, it is probably no surprise to any of us that summer learning loss hurts poor children more than any others. In fact, we've had data for a very long time proving it, but why is it that we continue to have our poor children falling further and further behind when we know the reason why? We have remediation programs in place during the school year, and we offer many children summer school. We may even send home summer work for them. Even so, why can't we seem to get to the root cause of the issue and fix it? 

In chapter one of Summer Reading, Dr. Allington shares the data showing how and why the achievement gap between rich and poor widens every year children are in school.  So ponder this a second...

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

What reasons popped into your mind?  Perhaps you thought that the parents just don't take the time for reading?  Maybe you thought that the kids are too busy swimming and playing, or were you thinking that teachers just don't take the time to tell parents how important it is?  Well, one of the real issues is the fact that many children lack access to appropriate reading materials, and each year children go without, the further behind they get. Here's a brief recap of Allington's research.
1. Poor children get most of their reading material from school or classroom library collections (Lamme 1976) and schools serving large numbers of poor children have smaller, older, and less diverse school and classroom library collections (Allington, Guice, Michelson, Baker, and Li 1996, Duke, 2000; Neuman, 2009).  This means poor children have a much more restricted selection of books. It was also found that they have fewer visits to the library, and more restrictions on what can be taken home.
2. Beyond the school setting, wealthier children had a greater number of bookstores available to them (3:1), but even worse are the differences in books available for purchase 16,000 compared to 55 books. On every measure, researchers found a "gaping difference." 
3. Family income has been shown to be a quite powerful predictor of the number of age-appropriate children's books and magazines that are available in the home
4. Access is not the only cause of summer learning loss.  Children's efficacy beliefs are linked to academic performance including their experiences as more or less successful readers.  A history of less success with reading produces a lower sense of self-efficacy than a history of successful reading experiences. Poor readers are more likely to be assigned texts that are too hard, texts they read with little fluency, limited accuracy, and without comprehension. Therefore, poor readers are less motivated to read voluntarily.
5. Creating classroom environments where successful reading is the norm for all children means that a one-size-fits-all curriculum plan (with everyone reading the same book) cannot produce a consistent pattern of successful reading.  Children need books they can read accurately, fluently, and with understanding. (McGill-Franzen 1993) to feel successful, and successful school reading leads to greater motivation to read voluntarily. 
Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.

As we look for ways to get quality literature that matches student needs and interests into the children's hands and motivate the children to read them, we need to consider these key principles.  

Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.
  • With your reading plans during the school year, ensure that all students are reading extensively during the school day.  
  • A focus on the volume of reading is different from a focus on time allocated for reading instruction.  The majority of the reading block should be spent reading.
  • Your reading plan should enhance students' desire to read voluntarily at night, on weekends, and during the summer.
Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap will provide you with ideas you can use to prevent summer slide.
  • Program plans should make sure classroom book collections match the needs and interests of all students.
  • Classroom libraries should include hundreds of titles at the appropriate level of difficulty.
  • Programs should emphasize that students have books available for take home on weekends and throughout the summer.
  • Finally, programs should help teachers develop skills in matching children and books. 
At the close of chapter one, Allington leaves the reader with an important note keeping these two principles in mind.  He says, "All children need consistent access to rich and explicit demonstrations of the thinking that proficient readers do before, during, and after reading, or expert instruction." It is during the independent practice that students use these skills and strategies and come to own them. Without regular successful reading practice, reading proficiency seems more difficult to achieve.

So, readers, we have plans to make, don't we?  Can we idly sit back and allow children who are at such a disadvantage continue to fall further and further behind, or are we going to make reading plans?  

Come back tomorrow to read about and share intervention plans that increase children's access to reading materials and that improve reading proficiency.



Why Teachers Should Read for Fun

Hi, Royal Readers! It's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late. I get to be the buffer between two amazing book studies and thought I would share about something many teachers are guilty of neglecting: personally reading for pleasure.

I know life gets crazy. Trust me. I had a baby back in May AND we moved two weeks ago. I'm proud of myself for actually finishing one book this summer so far. I know others of you that feel like you've got to read every professional book out there. That's great and I admire you for it, but please consider carving out some time to just kick back and enjoy a book for the simple joy of it. Why?

If we are going to instill a love for reading in our students, we have to truly believe it ourselves. I know some teachers who have actually claimed to hate reading, and it makes me cringe a little. I really do think there's a book out there for everyone. I don't care if you're reading a trashy romance novel or the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Just find something that you love and get lost in a book! We need to experience, or sometimes remind ourselves of, that feeling so we remember how important it is to help our children learn to love reading.

So go to the library, Amazon, or the bookstore, and find something. If you need suggestions, get on the Goodreads app to see what your friends are reading. Settle into a comfy chair, whether in a cozy room or on the beach, and take some time to relax and enjoy a good book.

What books are you reading for pleasure this summer?


Word Callers Book Study - Chapters 7 & 8

I love the title of Chapter 7, "Connecting the Dots" because it is a great way to think about inferring, which is difficult for word callers.

Kelly Cartwright categorizes inferences into two types:  text-connecting and gap-filling.  Text-connecting inferences require a reader to connect two ideas from a text to construct an idea that is not explicitly stated in the text.  Gap-filling inferences require a reader to connect their background knowledge to a piece (or multiple pieces) of text information to construct meaning.  Word callers have trouble with inference because they have to connect MULTIPLE bits of information and talk/think about things that are not in the text.  What can we do to help them?  We need to "make students aware that there are hidden meanings in the text that must be discovered. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 98).

Working with students on an individual basis allows the teacher to provide more specific, feedback to that student.  Using the two-story clue hunt, helps students make text-connecting and gap-filling inferences by using clue words in the story to create those inferences.

How it works:
  • Explain to students that you will be solving a puzzle today as they read a story.  To solve the puzzle we are going to look for clue words.
  • Read the first story.  Identify the clue words and explain what the clue words reveal about the story.
  • Read the second story.  The student helps you identify the clue words and explains what they tell about the story.  For any clue words that the student doesn't identify, tell the clue words and work WITH them to develop an explanation.
Because word callers don't recognize reading as a meaning-making process, they need to be nudged in the right direction.

Three-step inference building is an intensive process that spans six to seven small-group lessons that result in students becoming active thinkers.

How it works:

  • Finding Clue Words (lessons 1, 2, & 3) - Students find clue words in sentences and discuss the meanings provided by the clue words.
  • Question Generating (lessons 4, 5, & 6) - Students become the teacher and ask questions using the clue words that will help their fellow students make inferences.
  • Making Predictions (lesson 7) - Use a story that has one sentence covered.  Have students use clues from the rest of the story to determine the meaning of the sentence covered.

Without explicit instruction in how to comprehend texts, we cannot expect word callers to become active readers.  We need to give these students a glimpse into the mind of a proficient reader by "actively engag[ing] students in a running conversation about texts' meanings and their own thoughts about those meaning while reading a text. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 113).  We can do these through a process called Transactional Strategies Instruction where strategies are blended into a meaning-making experience rather than taught and practiced in isolation.

How it works:
Gather a small group (this a conversational type strategy) and pick a common text to read.

  • Good Strategy Users - As you read the text, emphasize that good readers use strategies we can't see, highlight various strategies during the reading and explain the reasoning behind using that strategy
    • MEANING IS ALWAYS THE PRIMARY FOCUS not just using a particular strategy
  • Gradual Release of Responsibility - Provide a specific strategy for students to use.  Before asking them to use it, explain the reasoning behind using the strategy - How does it help a reader make meaning?
  • Collaborative Learning - This is a student-centered approach because the teacher releases responsibility to the students quickly.  Asking questions like "What makes you think that?" and having students explain their thinking to each other.
  • Interpretative Discussion - Teachers guide students' thinking by prompting them with strategy use questions instead of giving evaluative feedback.  Students contributions are valued and supported.
"TSI is about changing the way you teach, not just changing what you teach. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 114).

Questions to Consider (please use the comment section below to share your thoughts!)

Consider the difference between text-connecting and gap-filling inferences.  Have you noticed that your students find one ore the other more difficult?  Why do you think this is the cause?

How is TSI similar to your current comprehension instruction?  How is it different?

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Word Callers Book Study~ Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5 

     Word Callers need opportunities to work with multiple meaning words. Authors use multiple meaning words and phrases to share humorous messages with their readers.

     Words such as homophones and homonyms require students to hold onto 2 ideas in their minds at one time. Next, they must use their flexibility to figure out which word fits the sentence and the meaning of it.


      Books like the Amelia Bedelia series and the book, Dear Deer,by Gene Barretta allow students to experience wordplay. When books are added to other jokes, riddles, and activities with homophones and homonyms, a student's understanding and reading comprehension will greatly improve.

    The rest of this chapter offers activities and websites for homophones, homonyms, jokes, riddles and more.

 Questions to Consider

1.Identify 3 points in your day where wordplay can fit.

2. What kinds of texts can you add to your classroom library to further your students' awareness of multiple meanings. If you need additional book ideas, see List 5-2 in the book.
Please add your answers to the "Comment" Section below.
Chapter 6
     Good readers create verbal and visual representations of meanings from text in their heads. Word Callers are less likely to engage in visualization of texts' meanings. This chapter offers various activities to support verbal and visual representations of text. All of these strategies require short passages of text without pictures. Teachers will need to type up the text before class time.

     One session story pictures using Nursery Rhymes or other simple 3-4 part stories. The teacher models visualizing the page in her head with only the text in front of her. Students continue to practice visualization while the teacher encourages and asks questions for clarity. The teacher makes up little books with 4 pages and puts 4 simple sentences of text on them.

     The next activity includes using storyboards with cutouts of characters and story elements. Magnets, flannel, or Velcro can be attached to the back of the pieces. Use a cookie sheet, flannel board, or white board for students to construct pictures as they read. Students will move the characters and story elements from the like a play going on. Eventually, move to paper storyboards and then scaffold the skill so students are making storyboards in their heads.

     Story maps with literal comprehension questions to focus on important story details is another strategy.   Students are asked to complete the story map first. Next, they finishing the question guide without the story map or story in front of them.

     Paragraph restatements is the final strategy. In this strategy, a short piece of text is used with 2-3 blank lines between each paragraph.   Using 3-5 words, students write the "important details" about the paragraph. This activity has 3 stages: Teacher Modeling, Student Practice, and More Independent Practice. Students move through the stages as they achieve 80%+ correct responses.

   Questions to Consider

1. What techniques might you try this fall with students who struggle with finding the main idea ?

2. What is one technique you want to try from this chapter ?

3. Which of your students would benefit from visual supports ? verbal supports ?

Please add your answers to the "Comment" Section below.


Word Callers Book Study: Chapter Four

Welcome to Chapter Four~  Easy Intervention Lessons: Word and Picture Sorts!  It's Lauren from Teacher Mom of 3 here with you today to share the highlights and my reflections from this chapter. If you missed Andrea's post from yesterday about identifying word callers, click here.  First, I want to share why I was so intrigued by this book.

Since the beginning of my career, some 26 years ago, I have been both baffled and curious as to how to teach and offer intervention for comprehension.  Not "getting it" is very common in older readers, even the "good" readers I have taught in grades 3-12. Being a high school and then later a middle school teacher years ago, I studied researchers such as Stephanie Harvey, Jeffrey Wilhelm, Ellin Keene, Donald Graves, and more.  I was thrilled to see that Cartwright also makes mention of these renowned researchers at the end of the book.  As a result, my teaching style includes modeling and explicit teaching of active reading strategies for all grade levels. However, I have never seen a specific assessment and targeted intervention for these readers who struggle with making and thinking flexibly meaning until I read this book.

One of my goals when working with readers is said very eloquently by Kelly Cartwright:

Thus, in order to help these children become successful comprehenders, we must make them aware that reading is active, that reading is thinking, and that good readers are always thinking while reading.
~Word Callers by Kelly Cartwright  p. 112

Word callers have great difficulty with active thinking.  That is, they are "glued" to the print and decoding and are unable to also think about meaning simultaneously. We all have taught and worked with word callers. And, I'm pretty sure we will have students on our roster this school year who can read very fluently, but do not understand their reading.  They have great difficulty with retellings, summarizing, and answering literal level questions as well as implicit questions.  They can read the words but they just don't get it.  They are word callers because as Cartwright mentions in chapter 4, they have great difficulty thinking flexibly about both sounds and meanings when reading words.

In fact, I have a word caller at home, and I was eager to learn new ideas to help him make meaning during and after reading.  It is mainly because of my son that I wanted to read and participate in this book study!   The Sound-Meaning Flexibility Intervention is the intervention that was created by Kelly Cartwright and is explained in detailed in chapter four.  As a side note, the rest of the book discusses other intervention/teaching methods for strengthening comprehension.

This book is unique in that not only does it describe in depth a new assessment tool and an intervention method, but the materials to use for both accompany the book!  I first assessed my son using the word cards that are included and followed the directions in chapter three (this is what Andrea discussed yesterday).  As I suspected, he scored below average for this age/grade level.  Because he has difficulty remembering what he reads, completing a retelling, and answering literal level questions, I had a clue that he was a word caller.

Now for the intervention lessons. The Sound-Meaning Flexibility Intervention can be delivered both individually and in small groups.  Very detailed instructions are included for both as well as photos, diagrams, and a scoring sheet.  Since I was working with just one child, my son, I will share with you the information I found to be important and relevant when administering this intervention. The author claims that improved comprehension can be measured in just five lessons (one lesson per week for 5 weeks).

Each intervention lesson has two main parts:  picture work and word work.  It is suggested that you begin with the picture sort and use as a scaffold.  When the student does not need it anymore, then your lessons will just focus on the word cards.  By lesson #3, I was able to omit the picture cards.

At the beginning, we discuss what flexible, good readers think about and then move into sorting the picture cards.  In the photo below he is sorting by one dimension (what the pictures mean:  fruit and flowers).

He repeated a second sort where he just sorted by color. Then he used the matrix that is included to sort by both dimensions.  See the top, left picture.

Next, using the intervention lesson directions, he completed four word sorts.  For each sort, he had to place the word cards on the matrix sorting by two dimensions, sound and word meaning.  See the bottom, right picture of a completed word sort.  You can see that he sorted by sound (columns) and word meanings (rows).  This was hard for him to make the transition from the pictures to the words.  That is how I knew that he would need to use the picture cards for the next lesson.  For the (4) word sorts, the student must get (4) consecutive sorts correct.  Once you and the student get the hang of it, the intervention lesson can be completed in about 20 minutes.  The author mentions that if you are delivering the intervention to small groups to allow for up to 40 minutes at the beginning.  There are some flexible options that the author discusses in the chapter.

Now, we still need to do two more lessons, and then I am excited to see how well he uses his flexible thinking with his chapter book reading!

Have you used this particular intervention?  Or, have you used other interventions or lessons for teaching readers to think flexibly about words, sounds, and meaning?

Be sure to come back tomorrow for a recap of chapters 5 and 6!