By Amy Franks, Education Partnerships Manager
Imagine you are a seven year old just finishing first grade, and the much anticipated summer break, long and lazy, is within arm’s reach, standing invitingly right before you. Dreams of the pool, ice cream, and all day free play dance in your head. With no school for two whole months, those dreams are about to be realized. Then, imagine your mom telling you you’re going to have a teacher come to your house and work with you on reading during the summer. Reading. All summer. There goes the wind in your summer vacation sails! Or so you think.
Now, fast forward to the end of the summer, your summer of reading. It actually wasn’t horrible. It didn’t keep you from the pool, the ice cream, or the free play. You met many characters — a dancing Giraffe named Gerald, a groovy button-wearing cat named Pete, a book-loving, boundlessly imaginative little girl named Lola, and a desperate-to-whistle little boy named Willie. You read all summer — on your own and with others. It actually became a family affair. You did some writing and practiced some reading skills. You talked. You laughed. You drew pictures. You shared ideas. And, you got lots of new books. All the while, you and your family were building a relationship with an adult from your school that may not have been established in any other way. This person will be a friendly face once the school year starts, one among many, yes, but this one is your friendly face, your teacher, the one who came to your house.
This is Books on Break at Home, Book Harvest’s summer learning home visiting program for rising second graders. Piloted at Club Blvd and Hope Valley elementary schools, the premise is simple: hire school day staff to make three home visits with families whose children have been referred by teachers, students who need a bit of extra support in literacy, and have them work with families on identifying their literacy goals and establishing a reading routine. On each visit, there is a read aloud, a lesson plan for the book that includes word work and writing, and tips and strategies for parents to use to meet the goals their family set for the summer. The intent is to reduce or even stop summer learning loss — the summer slide — and to strengthen the home-school connection.
Having recently been welcomed by several families to shadow home visitors, I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand what impact this time spent over the summer has had on them. One student went from being described as a “shy reader” who was reluctant to keep a reading log to proudly presenting fully completed logs AND book summaries to her teacher. Another student who was sad that it was the last visit of the summer recovered quickly and brightly exclaimed, “You’re my favorite teacher!” At another home, the student’s mom expressed gratitude for the visits, saying they really helped her to know what to work on with her daughter and how. She shared how their family plans to continue their reading routine and skills-building into the school year, telling us that even her middle school aged son had gotten involved and reads regularly with his little sister, holding her accountable for her practice and her logs. Stories like this abound with whole families becoming invested in supporting their rising second grader in this simple practice of reading more to become a better reader. As the program wraps for this, its first summer, we look forward to these families beginning the school year with renewed reading confidence, a deepened home-school connection, and a bookcase chock full of good reads.