In cities all around the country, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Chicago, community reading programs for children are becoming a popular trend. Designed to promote literacy, these reading initiatives encourage students of entire cities to read the same book at the same time. Most of these initiatives are organized by public libraries and operate simultaneously with adult reading programs.
The program, What If All Kids Read the Same Book? was created by the Seattle library system and funded with $500,000 from public, private and corporate sources. Growing out of the highly successful 1998 effort focusing on adult readers called If All of Seattle Read the Same Book, the goal inspired community-wide enthusiasm for reading by encouraging as many students as possible to read the same text. A study guide that meets curriculum standards acts as a support structure for teachers in using the book as a learning tool in the schools. More than 75,000 children will participate in this program by the end of the year.
In Los Angeles, Mayor James K. Hahn encourages ninth- and 10th-graders to read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and works with city libraries to pass out free copies of the book. The book’s publisher – Ballantine – has also donated 500 copies to Los Angeles high schools to promote student interest in literature.
In Chicago, thousands of eighth-graders have joined the tens of thousands of adults in reading Night by Elie Wiesel as the second book in a city-wide reading program. Teachers believe the initiative gives students an opportunity for increased interaction with adults and the ability to relate what they are reading to the communities around them.
Professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago caution that city reading programs need to be tightly linked to the school’s curriculum so as not to interfere with educational goals. But a Chicago eighth-grade teacher, Suzanne Suposnick, quoted in a recent Education Week article, thinks that the initiative helps students understand the book’s lessons. “The year [for teaching] is short. You try and look for books that are well written and accessible to students, [but] you’re also looking to get kids to see that this work is relevant to the world. If our particular community is reading the book, then students get a better sense of its importance.”
|Successful Team Read Approach
The Seattle public schools have created a partnership between high school and elementary students called Team Read. This program pairs high school students as reading coaches with second or third graders who need extra help in reading. The high school tutors work with the students two days a week after school and can receive money for college, community service hours, or an hourly wage for their tutoring. The reading coaches must have a high grade point average and participate in training and guidance sessions.
Since its inception in 1998, the program has reached more than 4,700 students and is expanding each year. It is currently offered in 20 schools, with more than 600 reading coaches tutoring students. Evaluations have shown that reading skills have continued to improve since its inception and high school tutors have gained confidence and satisfaction from participating.
Team Read represents a collaboration among a business and community based organization, several private investors, and the Seattle public school system.