Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Builds Better Readers!

The pilot edition of a summer reading newsletter will be distributed late this week to older elementary students at three Spring Branch ISD campuses. The newsletter will be posted online for all district students and families, too. (Check for it in the Let's Try Reading Blog or in the SBISD Parent Toolkit >>)

The very first newsletter, titled Branching Out, will be given out on the last day of school to about 400 students enrolled at Treasure Forest, Nottingham and Shadow Oaks elementary schools.

During the summer, new editions will be mailed out each week. Families without easy, reliable access to public libraries are being targeted in this pilot program, as well as students in third through fifth grades, or older elementary readers.

An online version of the literacy-focused newsletter will be posted on the Let's Try Reading Blog for all SBISD students and families, too. Additional reading sources and materials will be provided online as well as links to materials from public web sites.

The online blog can be found here:

There is more! Each edition of the Branching Out newsletter has a supplementary page that is titled Branching Out for Parents, with suggestions for home activities, questions and other ideas to encourage children to read. Parent letters home are in both English and Spanish.

The pilot summer newsletter project is a result of deep discussions and planning by SBISD’s Associate Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Patti Pace and Lead I-Coach for Elementary Language Arts/Social Studies Diane Fanning.

District I-Coaches will write the newsletters, with article submissions sought from middle school students. In SBISD, I-Coaches help classroom teachers develop and coordinate newer, technology-based learning resources with an array of traditional materials, and specific curriculum and content.

The purpose of the newsletter for students and families is both simple and, at the same time, deeply profound. Students who don’t read during the summer months tend to fall behind their grade-level peers who read on a regular, ongoing basis.

“Through the study of reading improvement, we know that there is a significant loss in reading skills for any student who does not read over the summer,” Pace and Fanning state in the initial Branching Out newsletter to parents.

“By the time a kindergarten student gets to middle school, that student may be as much as two years behind because little or no reading was done for three months. It is very difficult to be a successful middle school student if a child is not reading at the appropriate level,” they state. “Therefore, all of our children should continue to read throughout the summer.”

For questions or suggestions about summer newsletters and reading, please contact Diane Fanning at this address:

Sample Tips for Parents from the initial Branching Out newsletter:
  • Encourage your children to read, read, read, read, read. Don’t make it a chore or a punishment. Try to make it part or your daily rituals:
    • Maybe there could be a time when everyone sits down to read – no television or video games.
    • There could be a time when you read to your children; even older children like to be read to.
    • There also could be a time when your child reads to you or to a younger brother or sister.
  • Let your child do most of the choosing of what she reads. It’s best when the reader is interested in what she is reading. Contrary to popular belief, comic books are good alternatives if your child says she doesn’t like to read.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about what she is reading.
  • It is also wonderful to have the kids write and illustrate their own stories or articles, or skits. (I would love to read what they are writing. Feel free to send stories or articles. – Diane Fanning)
If you don’t have a library card from either the Harris County Library System or the Houston Public Library, make sure to visit and sign up for one. You can download audio books that are equally good for your child. You can get more information from your nearest public library.

We look forward to spending the summer reading with you!


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