A Summer Reading Challenge for 69,000 Kids?
No Problem, Says Title 1 Program Director

Dayren Carlisle has learned something important about registering her Texas district’s 69,000 students for the Scholastic Summer Challenge: It’s really not that hard.

With 52 kindergarten through eighth-grade campuses and 75 campuses total, the Aldine Independent School District has 75 Title 1 campuses in the Houston area serving about 69,000 students representing 17 different languages. Such statistics were not daunting for Dayren, the district’s Title 1 program director.

On May 1, Scholastic reading experts partnered with Aldine faculty members in “Train the Trainer” sessions featuring two representatives – Reading Champions – from each of its kindergarten through eighth-grade campuses. Each of the designated Reading Champions will coordinate their campus challenges and will register students for Read for the World Record!

Participants in the Scholastic Summer Challenge have a chance at winning a new classroom library, and the 20 schools with the most reading minutes will be featured in the 2013 Scholastic Book of World Records. But Dayren decided to take it even farther with a districtwide challenge. The team logging the most reading minutes will receive a traveling trophy – a lamp made out of a stack of books – as well as a banner and an author’s visit regardless of whether the team makes it into the world record book.

“What’s amazing about this relationship with Aldine is that they’re taking full ownership of everything, but they’re empowering us to supply them with the tools and resources to make them successful,” says Scholastic Field Manager Larry Wissinger. “In our training, we presented how the summer reading program is kid-tested, kid-friendly, and kid-approved – how it helps educators, parents, and students move forward along the same path with the same goal in mind, which is to read more books.”

Training, which is being followed up with two summer reading labs, took participants through practical how-tos, best practices, and the latest research on the importance of access to books in promoting overall student success.

Recent research from University of Tennessee professors Drs. Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen – which showed the importance of access to books in reversing the summer slide – has inspired Aldine faculty as they gear up for the Summer Challenge.

“A few of the campuses have chosen to purchase books for students because it’s all about access,” Dayren says. “Some principals are buying books so every child will walk away with at least one book. At Stephens Elementary, every kindergartner and first-grader will walk away with eight books.”

Another way Aldine faculty members are ensuring access is through opening some school libraries over the summer during times parents are most likely to visit with their children. Librarians are also developing creative family engagement plans, including story times, popcorn and movie nights, and involving the community by obtaining coupons for free ice cream to pass out on library days.

According to Dayren, one interesting note about the Reading Champions who represent each campus is their diversity: Some are reading specialists, some are librarians, some are dyslexia specialists, and others work in intervention. Such a cross-section demonstrates to Dayren the importance Aldine faculty place on reading across the board.

Already Dayren is determined to make the challenge an annual event, though she and Larry both recognize the challenge on their end will be to top their efforts this year. “You can really reach a lot of students all at the same time,” Larry says of the reading challenge. “But we know next year we’re going to have to do some things with this district to top these accomplishments,” he chuckles.

Click here for more information about how your school can enter to win a new classroom library and a chance for your school to be listed in the 2013 Scholastic Book of World Records by registering now for the Scholastic Summer Challenge.
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