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“Reading is Growing Our Readers”

A picture of a book with a plant growing out of it.The big box stores are rolling out the pool equipment and sunscreen, even though it’s still snowing in the Northeast. But this kind of hopeful think-ahead approach to the summer is precisely what a group of educators in Louisiana have been doing to fight summer reading regression. Through many and varied efforts to get the community reading and get books into families’ hands they’re seeing success. “Reading is growing our readers,” says Jennifer Marangos, principal of Rollins Place Elementary.

How are they doing this? A full year of research, planning, and execution. I encourage you to listen to or read a full transcript of their story. To get you so inspired, check out this sampling of activities they came up with to build literacy capacity in their community.

  • A school-wide field trip to get all of their students to library. (Resulting in 253 new library card applications!)
  • Educational programming for parents about reading strategies they can try at home (including yearlong programming for struggling readers and their families).
  • Bringing in the Rotary Club and the high school football team to read to students throughout the year.
  • Partnering with Barnes and Noble for a book fair.
  • A community-wide book drive / book sale at the start of summer.
  • A student survey to determine interest in types and topics of books, the results of which helped to inform the school’s book purchases.
  • A Summer Bucket List of activities families can do to engage in literacy activities.
  • Ongoing action research to determine if these strategies are working.

Have these strategies been working? In the words of Principal Marangos: “We have 800 book nerds, and we couldn’t be happier!” My favorite example she offers is of a classroom that got to come up with their own a celebration for good behavior and selected a read-a-thon. Marangos visited the classroom 3-hours in and found them all still sprawled about the room, deeply engrossed in their books.

What strikes me, reading through this interview and browsing the school’s site on the Literacy in Learning Exchange, is that this project may have originated with handful of educators but its implementation involves the entire community. Planning for such a comprehensive approach to addressing this specific concern requires every facet of the capacity building approach.