BookSpring has just completed preliminary evaluation of the pilot Read For Success program in Central Texas and the results are very encouraging. The program is designed to reduce the summer slide, a phenomenon where children’s academic skills, including reading, decline during the academic year break. According to Reading Is Fundamental in Washington DC, who originally developed the program, more than 80 percent of children from economically disadvantaged communities lose reading skills over the summer. The Read for Success program has shown great promise for preventing this loss in other communities, so BookSpring wanted to achieve similar results in our community – and possibly even better!
Through this intervention, early childhood classroom teachers receive training, books, and supporting materials to scaffold advanced STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) vocabulary and content through read-alouds and motivational activities in the classroom from March through May. Then, their students are allowed to independently select 8 STEAM-themed books, clearly color-coded to ensure a good match to their reading level, to take home over the summer. Allowing children to choose their own books is a key component of the program, as it has been shown to improve the intrinsic motivation to read by engaging the child in topics that they are interested in and that give them pleasure. They are tracked and tested when they return to see if the intervention has any measurable impact on their reading ability.
In the 2016 and 2017 academic years, BookSpring hosted the program in two Title I Austin Independent School District elementary schools. Through a formal data sharing agreement with de-identified student-level data, BookSpring was able to track pre- and post-summer break English and Spanish Reading scores using the Istation assessment tool. The first score was taken at the end of the student’s second grade year, and the second at the very beginning of their third grade year.
While these results have not yet been independently confirmed, our records show that we served a total 185 students total across the two schools. Due to moves and other attrition, Istation test scores were available for 163 of these students. 117 (71.8%) of these students showed an increased score, while 9 (5.5%) stayed about the same, and only 37 (22.7%) decreased. In other words, over 75% of our participating children stayed the same or gained in reading over the summer months. This stands in remarkable contrast to the national benchmark in which 80% of children lost progress in their reading skills over the summer.
Research indicates that having as few as 20 books in the home predicts staying in school as much as 3 years longer (Evans, Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success, 2010). And, the simple intervention of books in the home may be a more cost-effective and practical way of supporting low-income children across the summer months than expensive camps with extensive staff, time, and transportation requirements. That said, books at home might be particularly helpful in reinforcing lessons learned in summer academic support programs. This is an area that both national literacy advocates, and we here at BookSpring, are planning to examine in more detail in the future.
The data BookSpring has collected to date is currently being reviewed by a third party researcher and more extensive analysis will be made available when it is completed. We are grateful to our advisors at the Little Learners Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin Department of Psychology for their assistance in this evaluation.
In the meanwhile, we are currently launching a second year of the program here in Central Texas, in partnership with Reading Is Fundamental, Foundation Communities, and the Austin Independent School District. The Foundation Communities collaboration is in conjunction with 21st Century Learning Centers afterschool and out-of-school efforts.
The program will be made available through BookSpring on an ongoing basis to second grade classrooms through Central Texas schools and districts at a price of just $50 per child, with applications due in April of the year prior to participation.
For more information, please contact Joel Gross, BookSpringEd Director, (512) 472-1791 x 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org