Students at New York City’s Harlem Success Academy had a big reason for celebrating last week. The banner unveiled in the school auditorium that day tells it all: 1,000,000 Books Read!
“Our scholars and their families have been reading up storm,” said Eva Moskowitz, CEO and founder of the schools that comprise the Success Charter Network. Scholars at those schools have been reading and logging books read outside the classroom since 2006 -- and the one-millionth book was logged earlier this month.
“Our goal is that all our scholars love reading, think deeply about the books they read, and are able to debate topics,” added Moskowitz.
As part of the celebration, three fifth graders presented mini-essays about books that had the most impact on them. Individual honors were awarded to other scholars for “Going Beyond Z,” which refers to a phrase from Dr. Seuss's On Beyond Zebra. In that book, Seuss urges young readers to think what possibilities may lie beyond the letter “z” if they work hard enough, are creative enough, and are open to what might not immediately meet the eye.
The reading program at SCN schools gradually increases scholars’ reading stamina, according to Moskowitz. For example, kindergartners read 10 minutes a day at the beginning of the school year and eventually work their way to 30 minutes of independent reading. Fifth graders begin reading 30 minutes a day and ultimately read for one hour at a time on their own.
Harlem Success Academy 1, located at 34 West 118th Street, is the flagship school of the Success Charter Network. It is the number one public charter school in New York City and has been ranked in the top one percent of all public schools in New York State for two consecutive years. Excellence in education and inspiring children to love learning are the mandates of the Success Academies. They believe other schools can accomplish their goals by
--- focusing on ensuring children love to read by helping them choose the right books for their level and interest;
--- focusing on comprehension and critical thinking;
--- using data to individually assess students’ progress;
--- informing parents of their children’s progress and partnering with parents to have them play a key role in their children’s education; and
--- setting high expectations for everyone in the school -- teachers, students, parents, and administration.
“There is nothing more important than reading,” stated Moskowitz. “By far, making reading our top priority is the best bang for the buck that we see in our schools.”
MAKE READING A FOCUS AT YOUR SCHOOL
These articles from the Education World archive share stories of principals whose students are achieving reading success because of programs put in place in their schools.
Getting Kids to Read by Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize
Educators know that children who read and are read to are more likely to become life-long readers. That's why many schools are using reading incentives -- from reading honor rolls to "prize patrols" -- to encourage kids. And they're reading more as a result.
Principals' Feats Fuel Fabulous Reading
What would students do to see a principal camp on the roof, become a human sundae, kiss a pig, or get slimed? Turns out they will do a great deal -- of reading! Many principal are capitalizing on students' desire to see them do wacky stunts and build reading skills.
Principals Make Reading a School-Wide Goal
Students pledge to read thousands of pages. First- and fifth-graders buddy up for reading. Those events and others are part of school-wide reading programs at two Minnesota schools. Included: Additional activities help make reading a school-wide goal.
Are you looking for a special project that will excite your students about reading? You’ve come to the right place! On this page, we have gathered dozens of Education World articles that offer unique lessons and ideas for teachers of reading at all levels. Make every week Book Week with these fun and "novel" reading lesson ideas.
Red Carpet Readers
It was "A Night at the Oscars" and many of the students and nearly all staff members donned formal attire for the event that highlighted the connection between reading and the silver screen. The celebration was the latest take on the school's annual "Family Reading Night," and its theme was created by the students themselves.
School Makes ‘Community Read’ Its Own
A local library’s community reading program has given rise to a month-long family reading program at Meadow Glens Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois. The program, which is focused on family literacy, has been a big success.
Program Hauls In Huge Catch of Reading
Challenged to create a program that encouraged young students to read in school as well as at home, Betsy Lepak created "Hooked on Books." Classes kept track of every book they read in exchange for the privilege of caring for two fish in a bowl.
Literacy Efforts Over the Long Haul
When staff members at one Maryland school discovered that students' reading scores weren't improving as hoped, they took action to motivate the students to read and to get parents involved. A continuous focus on literacy is helping the school make the grade.
‘Reading Buddies’ Pair Up for Literacy
A "Reading Buddies" program at an Illinois school pairs education students from North Central College (NCC) with fourth and fifth graders. Each twosome reads an assigned book and works together to create a final project to share with the entire group.
‘Together We Can’ Motto Spurs Columbia Elementary's Success
Columbia Elementary School's motto is "Together We Can!" Together principal Lori Musser and staff members have adopted initiatives such as after-school clubs and intensive reading instruction to help students achieve.
Principals’ Classrooms Visits Help Build Better Readers
When principals and literacy coaches understand what students are learning and teachers are teaching -- and participate in literacy lessons -- they set a positive tone for the school that can lead to improvement in reading, says author and educator Dr. Beth Whitaker.
Photos courtesy of Success Charter Network