Riley Summer Reading Program Ice Cream Licking Success

OSWEGO, NY – This past summer, Riley School launched “Ice Cream for Books”, an exciting new project to help bridge the gap of “summer reading loss.”

The project encouraged each child in the building to read at least three to four times a week, 15 minutes a day, during the months of July and August.

All of these Charles E. Riley Elementary School students celebrated their successful completion and participation in the summer reading program.
All of these Charles E. Riley Elementary School students celebrated their successful completion and participation in the summer reading program.

Librarian Molly Clark and Literacy teacher Joan Dain spearheaded the project based on a study that Dain conducted.

“We conducted a seven year study of summer reading loss from students in the K-4 grade levels. We examined reading scores in June and reading scores in September. The data cited significant “reading loss” across the board with a majority of our students.” said Dain.  “It is so difficult to make up this loss.  Students make gains over the school year and leave us in June at a specific reading level. They can very often come to us in September at a significantly lower reading level.”

Dain added, “Two months doesn’t sound like a lot of time. But, it is truly alarming what happens to the student if he/she doesn’t read at all over the summer.  He or she could lose up to six months of reading gains.  This is a huge loss.   Therefore, we are always playing catch-up with many of our students.”

The national data also supports Riley school’s study.

“The national data coupled with our school data gave us reason to move ahead with a school-wide summer reading project.” Clark stated. “We wanted to hit every student in the building personally, emphasizing the importance of reading over the summer, how choosing what you want to read makes reading fun, and how being a strong reader makes us more successful in school and in life.”

Over the months of March, April and May, a wide variety of gently used books were collected from students, families and friends of the Riley community.

“The Riley community is so generous.  I was amazed at how many books were donated.” said Dain. “Hundreds and hundreds of books were collected.”

Clark and Dain sorted each donated book into specific instructional reading levels ranging from easy reader books to high level chapter books.

Twenty to thirty bins of “leveled” books were available for students to choose books to read over the summer.

Each class visited the Literacy Center at Riley to select two to three books to read over the summer.

Each child placed their selected books into an “Ice Cream for Books” reader bag and received a July and August calendar to chart their reading over the summer.

Postcards were sent over the summer to all K-6 students to remind them of the importance of reading and to keep up their stamina as a reader.

“Modeling the conditions that promote a positive reading atmosphere is important.  Before school ended, we worked with each class in the building. We brainstormed great places to read, how to choose a ‘good fit’ book, finding a good time to read, and where to place the reading calendar as a reminder to read over the summer. These are things we always talk about with books, but it is particularly important to walk through these steps before they leave for the summer.” Clark noted.

The Home and School Association also played an integral role in the success of the project.

Once students selected books, the Home and School Association sponsored an “Ice Cream Social” in late June as a kickoff to launch the Summer Reading Project.

Family and friends that attended the ice cream social enjoyed an ice cream sundae, selected more “gently” used books to bring home, and were entertained with a performance by renowned storytellers, Mitch and Martha Weiss also known as Beauty and the Beast.

“We were thrilled with the turnout of Riley students and family members at the Ice Cream Social.  We are pleased that donated books are going back into the community and into the homes of Riley families.  This is exactly what we hoped would happen.” noted Clark.

Who read over the summer?

According to Dain and Clark, approximately 20% of the school population returned their reader bags and completed reading sheets.

“This is a wonderful turnout for our first year! My hope is that next year, we will have even more students involved.  In fact, I’d love to see a bus filled with books going to neighborhoods in the summer, similar to a Bookmobile. I think we could make an impact on a lot of students this way.” Dain said. “If you are a working parent, it can be difficult to bring your child to the public library during the summer. I know if we can bring a variety of quality books to places where kids go during the summer, like the local parks, students will read! Just think what would happen if we had a good percentage of kids reading over the summer? I believe we would have less remedial readers and more lifelong readers!”