A Reading Challenge for 69,000 kids?
No Problem, says District Rep

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.

The Aldine Independent School District had three schools in the Top 20 in the 2012 Scholastic Summer Challenge, with one school reading more than 1 million minutes and 22 reading more than 100,000 minutes. Collectively, the Aldine district read more than 10 million minutes.

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. That puts three Aldine schools in the record book.

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 largely minority students representing 17 different languages. Such statistics were not daunting for Dayren, the district’s Title 1 program director.

“All the support we received from Scholastic has been the key,” Dayren shares. “Everything is pretty much done and laid out for you. We said, ‘Obviously you all need to help us with the training,’ but they had that all covered.”

Last spring, Scholastic representatives 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 coordinated their campus challenges and registered students for Read for the World Record!

“What’s amazing about this relationship with Aldine is that they’re taking full ownership of everything, but they’re allowing us to supply them with the tools and resources to make them successful,” says Scholastic Director of Business Development 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 was 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 chose to purchase books for students because it’s all about access,” Dayren says. “Some principals bought books so every child walked away with at least one book. At Stephens Elementary, every kindergartner and first-grader walked away with eight books.”

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

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 from 2012. “You can really reach a lot of students all at the same time,” Larry says of the reading challenge. “But we know this year we’re going to have to do some things with this district to top these accomplishments,” he chuckles.

At their center of all their efforts, though, is student success. “We’re really hoping it will make a difference,” Dayren says.

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 2014 Scholastic Book of World Records by registering now for the Scholastic Summer Challenge.

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