Parent Power newsletter: Get reading this summer

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Parent Power Night: July 15, 5:30 p.m.                                            June 11, 2014: Issue 4 

Summer reading academies offer help for struggling readers

Children and teacher reading outside

For many Oklahoma kids who need help improving their literacy skills, summer break offers an opportunity to slow down and focus on reading. In schools throughout the state, summer reading academies and similar programs are growing in popularity.

Under the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) , third-grade students at risk of being retained are eligible for promotion to the next grade upon successful completion of a summer reading academy or other program. The law requires retention and remediation for third graders who score Unsatisfactory on the state reading test or score below minimum third-level proficiency on district-selected formative assessment or do not receive an exemption.

“Summer reading academies are a smart and effective route for many children with reading difficulties,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi. “More and more school districts are offering such programs, which are certain to go a long way toward giving kids the gift of reading.”

As outlined by the RSA, summer reading academies:

  • last four weeks with four half-days weekly,
  • incorporate content of a scientifically based reading program,
  • are taught by teachers who have received professional development in reading instruction, and
  • are open to students who score below a benchmark on midyear reading assessments.

In the northern Oklahoma town of Collinsville, Wilson Elementary School’s summer reading academy kicked off June 2. While its program has been offered for several years now, the RSA’s provision on third-grade reading retention prompted the school to strengthen efforts.

“We decided that we were going to step our game up in the summer reading academy so we could meet those needs,” Principal Cheryl Hunt said.

This year, Wilson added second graders to the program for the first time. Six teachers work with five or six students apiece in the reading academy, with the groups divided by specific needs.

Kids receive breakfast if they haven’t eaten before they arrive at school. There are literacy warm-up exercises for students who show up before the 9 a.m. start time.

Once class starts, things get moving.

“We try to have something different every 30 minutes, so that it all involves reading but it’s moving with a purpose,” Hunt said.

The students cycle between lessons and practice, visiting the motor lab on campus and joining other classes for larger group activities. Hunt said participants take regular trips to the town library nearby to register for library cards and hear from the librarian.

“As we dismissed today (June 2), there were three or four students coming around the corner who were saying, ‘Wow, summer school is cool; I didn’t know it was like this,’” Hunt said.

For students in Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), summer is an opportunity to continue intensive reading programs outside of the regular school year. Like the program in Collinsville, OKC students will cycle between lessons, group practice, visits to media centers and different literacy-focused activities.

Oklahoma City’s summer program goes on for two weeks. The district provides specialized reading instruction throughout the year and holds reading-focused programs during its breaks, which last longer than those in most districts as the result of a year-round schedule.

“We’re continuing what we’re doing during the year for our students who need that intensive intervention,” said Jessika Hill, curriculum coordinator for elementary English and language arts at OKCPS.

Students in the OKCPS program were identified in parent-teacher conferences. Once students are determined to need help, their progress is closely monitored.

“We try to make it very targeted, and they’re giving up their break so we try to make it fun as well,” Hill said.

The district also organizes regular community conferences to give parents materials about how their children can put reading into practice and avoid the so-called “summer backslide.” District officials also offer an online component of reading instruction to encourage reading outside of the classroom.

Engagement at home is key, Hill said.

Free online reading programs offer resources for all learners

Help motivate your kids to read this summer by getting them involved in one or more summer reading programs. From your local library to national web-based programs, there are many free options with a host of themes and activities. Here are just a few we've come across for this season:

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, this year titled “Reading Under the Stars,” provides resources and challenges for kids, parents and teachers. Kids who sign up can log minutes as they read throughout the summer, take weekly challenges and enter sweepstakes to win free books as they meet goals through Sept. 5. Parents can register their kids and access resources and activities to help summer reading in different age groups. Scholastic also offers a Facebook app with monthly reading calendars.

Many Oklahoma public libraries will be offering free summer reading programs. The Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) is providing many local libraries with themed programs that center on science (with such titles as “Fizz, Boom, Read” and “Spark a Reaction”). Some may sponsor contests or offer prizes as kids record their reading. The ODL is also partnering with other agencies to award scholarships and books through its program. To learn more about the specific summer reading initiatives in your community, contact your library.

Kids can earn a free book and parents can download a resource kit through Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program, titled “Imagination’s Destination.” To participate, kids record books as they complete them in the provided log. Once they finish eight books, they can take the log to a Barnes & Noble store and choose a free book from a list. The program closes Sept. 2.

The Half Price Books “Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program” offers readers 14 and younger the chance to win prizes in June and July for reading at least 15 minutes daily. Once they reach 300 minutes, they are eligible to receive a discount coupon to Half Price Books and can enter a monthly drawing for a free book at their local store.

“Book Adventure” from Sylvan offers many resources for kids, parents and teachers. Kids in grades kindergarten through eighth create their own reading lists from a catalog of nearly 8,000 titles and take quizzes on those books after reading them. Parents can track their children's progress through the “Books Adventures” website, and kids can win prizes.

Vision 2020 2014

Come to Parent Power Night at Vision 2020

Register now to attend Vision 2020, the Oklahoma State Department of Education's annual free conference for educators, parents and everyone else with a stake in schools.

Parents are welcome to attend all sessions at Vision 2020, but Parent Power Night is set aside especially for them.

The entire conference takes place July 15 – 17 at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Parent Power Night will be Tuesday, July 15, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Although the conference is free to attend, space is limited so register today:

2014 summer meal sites now open

summer food service program

The USDA Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals to low-income children for free by opening up cafeterias between school years.

All children under the age of 18 who show up at participating sites to eat will be given a meal. Many sites are schools, but not all. Some are operated by nonprofits.

The program is administered by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

To find the closest site to you providing free meals to kids this summer, click this link to access an interactive map, and please feel free to share. (Note: The map may require a free plug-in on some web browsers. See the "Instructions" section if you encounter problems.)

A national hotline has also been established to connect people with local food sites. Call 1-866-348-6479 for English or 1-877-842-6273 for Spanish.

OKTOY Peter Markes on "busy-ness"


Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Peter Markes has a new blog post about the state of being busy and how it can be used in a positive way to help each other:

“Too often we wear ‘Busy’ as a badge of honor. As has become the American way, we pride ourselves on work and accomplishments. Of course we are busy! If we were not busy, we would probably not form the friendships we currently have. It is this common passion for ‘doing’ that brings us together. We do good work in the service of others, and we dedicate time to friends and family, and these chosen tasks inherently make us busy…

“I hope we eventually agree that it is great fun to be ‘busy.’ Remember that there is always time to talk to someone, no matter how busy. If it means we stick around five minutes longer, or stay up an hour later, it is the kind of busy we should all seek in the end. I encourage each of us to fill our lives with meaningful conversations, positive experiences and special people…”

Read the whole post here:

Parent Power round-up: Summer camps

Although many summer camps are already booked, there may still be some space available elsewhere. There are Oklahoma camps for all kinds of interests. If you’re still looking for one, start with these databases from Oklahoma City’s and Tulsa’s family publications.

Remember to like OSDE's Parent Power Facebook page for interesting links throughout the week.

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