Planning now for summer programs is more important than ever as schools face widening learning gaps due to the pandemic. A few years ago, the summer reading options my district, Elizabethtown Independent Schools, offered were fairly meager.

We had a summer school program for students who were struggling, but we didn’t really have a program designed to reach all of our students and prevent the summer slide students experience during the long break. Our students were falling behind. We had approximately 50 percent reading at grade level by third grade. We knew something had to change.

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When we began looking for a summer reading program for our early readers, we knew we wanted a partner who would let students select their own books and keep them after they read them. Eventually, we chose Kids Read Now, in part because the program not only lets students keep the books, but they’re delivered in the mail, which is pretty exciting to kids and even more essential during Covid-19 remote learning protocols.

No matter what program you use, here are the five keys to making a summer reading initiative a success. These apply equally well for extended breaks or home learning during the pandemic.

Family engagement

Family engagement is baked into the Kids Read Now program. Within two weeks of the end of the school year, participating schools can hold a live or virtual parent event designed to help families understand the program. Students get to choose nine titles for their wish list, and they receive three of them at the kickoff event or, in the case of a virtual kickoff, the first one will be mailed home. Each week another book is mailed to the home. Plus, each time a family member reports their child has completed a book, students will move a step closer to completing the summer challenge and earn a certificate and prize. At the event, families learn how to report books and learn about using the discovery sheet stickers in each book, which have four activities for engaging their children at home to build comprehension and reading skills.

About the Author:

Kelli Bush is the superintendent of Elizabethtown Independent Schools. She can be reached at kelli.bush@etown.kyschools.us.