Summer program boosts literacy skills for young learners

Summer program boosts literacy skills for young learners

(Tenn.) Children in Tennessee are reading more accurately and demonstrating better comprehension skills after participating in summer camps linked to a statewide literacy campaign to increase the number of third grade students reading proficiently.

The Read to be Ready summer camps target economically disadvantaged students who aren’t reading on grade level, and provide them with at least 80 hours of literacy-focused instruction in small groups. Camps were required to maintain a one-to-five teacher-to-student ratio.

“The program allows our students to develop the skills they need to become proficient readers, a skill that is essential for their lifelong success,” Candice McQueen, state education commissioner, said in a statement. “By continuing this work together, we can continue this progress so every child is reading on grade-level by the time they leave third grade.”

Gov. Bill Haslam launched the program, called the ‘Read to be Ready Summer Grant,’ with the goal of ensuring at least 75 percent of Tennessee third graders are reading on grade level by 2025, in 2016.

Only 37 percent of 3rd graders in Tennessee scored proficient in reading on the most recent state tests. While state officials noted that does represent an increase from past results, there is still a ways to go before reaching the overall goal.

Last year, the Tennessee Department of Human Services invested $30 million over three years to enhance and expand the summer reading program in order to significantly increase the number of students served, and allow more sites the ability to offer transportation for students.

The Read to be Ready Summer Grant Program provides funding to educators to lead tuition-free, literacy-focused summer camps for students in need across the state.

Children who participate are sent home with high-quality books–this year, more than 193,000 high-quality books were sent home with students overall, with each individual student taking about 25 new books.

And teachers receive professional development and work directly with literacy coaches.

For the third year in a row, incoming first, second and third grade students who participated in the program showed gains in their reading comprehension and accuracy skills and increased their motivation to read, according to a report released this month by the state Education Department.

This summer, more than 7,700 children took part in 250 reading camps across the state, which each lasted one month. Results from surveys, interviews and assessments administered before the program started and after children completed it show a number of positive outcomes were made.

On average, students' ability to read accurately improved from 81 percent to 84 percent, which allowed students to spend less time analyzing words and to pay more attention to the meaning of the passages read.

Children’s reading comprehension rate slightly increased as well, by 1 percent.

Additionally, students' motivation to read increased from 81 percent to 83 percent—with students reporting being more confident in their reading skills.

State officials said the program has helped diminish the effects of this learning loss during summer vacation, known as the summer slide. On average, children lose approximately one month of grade-level reading and math skills during summer vacation, and those effects are often worse for low-income youth.

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