Tell Our Story: The Road Map Project and Let’s Read!
In the spring of 2012, the Road Map Project reached out to libraries, cities, and local organizations in Seattle and South King County to roll out Let’s Read!, a new summer reading campaign aimed at fighting summer learning loss. The campaign encourages children to read during the summer by connecting parents and families to helpful resources, such as library summer reading programs and local summer meals sites. Our goal is to increase Kindergarten readiness and proficiency in 3rd grade reading by developing a culture in which families read together daily.
Building on the efforts of last year’s campaign, which focused largely on communicating the importance of summer reading to families through strategically distributed print materials and public service announcements, we hoped to expand the reach of Let’s Read! in 2013. In early spring 2013, we organized community-specific meetings of key stakeholders (libraries, community-based organizations, municipalities, etc.) in each of the seven school districts in the Road Map region: Auburn, Highline, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Seattle, and Tukwila. These meetings created an opportunity to learn about the existing efforts of community partners to support summer learning among low-income children and families, as well as a means to identify points of potential collaboration.
Drawing on the feedback of community and school partners, we created a collection of Let’s Read! materials including posters (in 9 languages), stickers, magnets, postcards, and a Summer Reading Agreement (in 14 languages) to communicate the importance of summer reading to children and families. An additional effort this summer revolved around the Summer Reading Commitment included in the federal Race to the Top Grant awarded to our region this year. This commitment mandated that all Kindergarten-2nd Grade students in high-need elementary schools (77% or higher students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch) receive a summer reading plan to support learning throughout the summer and reduce the occurrence of summer learning loss. A small group of staff representing each of the seven Road Map school districts met regularly throughout the spring to design the summer reading plan, which included the following elements:
Summer Reading Agreement – The Title 1 Compact provided the model for this document.
Summer Reading Log – From the Seattle Public Library and King County Library System
Let’s Read! Magnet – Intended to help families keep summer reading top-of-mind by holding the summer reading log on the refrigerator.
These district representatives connected us to a key contact person in each of the 52 high-need elementary schools in the region, helping to streamline the materials distribution process. Over 12,000 Kindergarten-2nd Grade students received the summer reading plan from their primary teachers or school librarians just before the end of the school year in early June. In addition, nearly 70 service providers across the Road Map Region (the YMCA of Greater Seattle, the Auburn School District Summer Meals Program, the City of Tukwila Parks & Recreation Department to name a few) distributed tens of thousands of Let’s Read! printed materials to the children and families they serve.
In June, we launched a Let’s Read! Facebook page, and began posting weekly literacy tips and sent them out via email to a group of 65 service providers. The tips were designed to be included in newsletters or emails to parents. Through Facebook alone, these tips reached over 100 individuals each week, and thousands more through the networks of those receiving the tips via email. The Tukwila School District flexed their creativity muscles by converting the tips into Robo Calls and translating them into multiple languages in order to reach all families in their district.
July was a month that can only be described as book madness! Through a generous donation from Seattle-based non-profit Page Ahead, we received over 7,000 new books to distribute through-out the region. Our community partners were thrilled to receive something as tangible and useful as books. The majority of books were placed directly into the hands of children, while others were added to the library collections of various non-profit organizations such as the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club in South Seattle.
As the summer began to wind down in August, our minds turned to the data collection and evaluation phase of this effort. In early September, we sent a survey to all service providers and school staff that received books, materials, or literacy tips, and to all organizations that were involved in the Let’s Read! or Race to the Top Summer Reading Commitment planning process. We recognize the absolute necessity of collecting feedback from our partners who work directly with children and families in shaping and improving this effort in the coming years. Quantifying the impact of summer reading efforts on the reading levels of individual students in the region presents us with a challenge, however. A common literacy assessment tool does not exist among the seven school districts in the Road Map Region, with some districts using DIBELS and others using entirely different assessment tools. This fall, we will collect spring and fall DIBELS assessment data from a couple of districts to create a baseline we can work with going forward.
We are proud of the work accomplished in our region this summer to decrease summer learning loss. We loved seeing the creative ways our partners used Let’s Read! materials and reached out meaningfully to the communities of highest need in the Road Map area. We are so excited to start planning our efforts for summer 2014 – summer starts in September, right?