It’s a Wednesday morning in mid-July and instead of being out on the playground or watching television, twenty-seven local kids ranging in age from four to 14 are packed into the computer room at the Sierra Village Apartments clubhouse. They will come here every Wednesday and Thursday morning for five weeks to participate in the Tahoe Truckee Reads Summer Reading Program.
The morning starts with a coloring project as the students settle in. The kids are then split into two groups: entering kinders/early grades and older elementary/middle school students. The kinders/early grades start working on word structure, identifying consonants and vowel sounds in different types of words.
The older group gets a quick lesson about how to read a book and figure out the main character, problem and solution of the story before being sent off in smaller groups to read. There are three girls in middle school who each take charge of one of the smaller reading groups. The girls are eager to help the other kids in their groups with reading and comprehension. These older girls are learning valuable lessons about leadership in addition to honing their own reading and comprehension skills.
Tahoe Truckee Reads’ Summer Neighborhood Reading Program is in its second year and one of our campaign success stories thanks to support from local teachers and community partners. Over the past two summers, over 100 students participated regularly in the program, which was offered in seven low-income neighborhoods.
The engagement and partnership with Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD), has been indispensable in implementing campaign goals. This summer TTUSD developed and offered a four-week school readiness Kinder Camp open to all incoming kindergartners. The new offering also included a “Summer Scholars” program for identified 1st and 2nd graders needing support in language arts skills. Nearly 200 students participated in these programs.
Tahoe Truckee Reads has engaged the participation of summer programs providers (Rec and Park departments and Boys and Girls Club) to incorporate and expand literacy into their programs. One of the Rec and Park department’s day camp programs has incorporated daily reading (small group read aloud, acting out the story, etc.) into their daily itinerary through a partnership with the local library. The public library has seen a record number of children participating in the summer reading program and has expanded their program events from four to six.
The importance of attendance was strongly emphasized by the Superintendent of TTUSD during the 2012/2013 school year. One elementary school principal (out of 5 elementary schools) employed a comprehensive approach to School Attendance messaging and the year-end results showed a decided improvement at her school. However, the numbers throughout the school district didn’t reflect the same success. The school district will be participating in the School Attendance Awareness Month and utilizing the tool kit and will be digging deeper into the numbers to better understand and improve the challenge of attendance issues.
Another challenge we encountered was in expanding a one-to-one reading program to all the state-funded preschool programs in the school district. A local Rotary Club successfully implemented a volunteer-led one-to-one and group reading program at one of three state-funded preschools in our area. We were unsuccessful in engaging other Rotary Clubs to replicate the program and coordinate it at the other preschools. However, an alternative solution presented itself through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. The Boys and Girls Club shares a campus with one of the preschools and their staff adopted the weekly group reading to the preschool class as part of their work plan.
The creation of Community Bookshelves was a surprise project that evolved through a partnership with two local Rotary Clubs that wanted to support Tahoe Truckee Reads. The Clubs devoted their national “Rotarians At Work Day” to the campaign and built 12 bookshelves to start the Community Bookshelf Project. Fifteen sites throughout our region offered to host a Community Bookshelf (a few sites utilized their own book cases) and we supplied over 1000 books to fill the bookshelves. Each bookshelf provides simple direction: “Take a Book, Leave a Book, or Do Both!” The Community Bookshelves are at locations easily accessible to children including Community Recreation Centers, Boys and Girls Club and community rooms at low-income apartment complexes. Each of the Summer Neighborhood Reading Program sites has a Community Bookshelf and they are highly utilized.
This fall we are offering the Read and Rise Family Literacy training to selected facilitators as a school readiness strategy. This research-based Scholastic Parent Education Program training is an opportunity to provide education and support to parents of children birth to 5 in language development and early literacy. We are also planning a fall community meeting to engage our larger constituency and share some of the results from the programs in place and energize partners for the new school year.
The most critical challenge is the sustainability of these programs and maintaining the momentum of collaborations. Currently our Tahoe Truckee Reads steering committee is evaluating the best model for long-term effectiveness and working with partner organizations to embed literacy into their existing programs.