The main goal of S.M.A.R.T. BookSwap™ is for schools to build up a BookSwap Library of new and used books in partnership with local businesses and the larger community in support of an end-of-school year book give-a-way to students in grades K thru 3 that focuses on voluntary pleasure reading. During the summer vacation months, students are encouraged to attend community BookSwap™ events and swap books with each other that they have already read.
Specific - To help prevent “summer reading loss”, school districts should consider creating an innovative S.M.A.R.T. BookSwap™ Summer Reading Initiative built around voluntary pleasure reading and supported by community BookSwap™ events intended to focus attention on literacy. The basic idea is to give away 1-3 self-chosen books to students in grades K thru 3 from the school’s BookSwap Library at the end of the school year to take home with them. And then during the summer vacation months, students are encouraged to attend community BookSwap™ events and swap books with each other that they have already read.
The BookSwap Library would be made up largely of the (tax-deductible) donations to schools of new and used books from local
businesses and individuals. New books could be purchased online from the Children's Choices Reading List on www.screadingproject.org, giving schools an easy way to build a high quality BookSwap Library while developing a broad base of supporters in the larger community, including those who live in other geographic locations.
It has been suggested that voluntary pleasure reading not only increases children's motivation to develop reading habits, but actually
works better to improve reading skills than formal instruction and systematic programs designed to raise test scores. The U.S.
Department of Education found that, generally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores.
Measurable - Schools should set a minimum goal of accumulating 3-5 books per student for their BookSwap Library through (tax-deductible) donations of new and used books to schools (see next section). Also, BookSwap Library books would not need to be catalogued like school library books because there would be no need to keep track of them. However, the number of books read by students could be tracked by asking them to write a book review of each book they read during the summer that could then be posted in the classroom, or in the school hallway or cafeteria, and shared with other students. Reviews could then serve as recommendations to other students who may have common interests, an idea that has already been proven by some schools to work. Keeping track of the number of books students read could also be used for the purpose of incentivizing the program and making it fun, and would create another opportunity to engage the larger community. (i.e. Read 5 books, get a free milkshake from a supporting business. Read 10 books, get a free trip to the water park or ballgame, etc.)
Attainable - Community awareness of a school’s literacy initiative would inevitably grow over time, with schools enjoying endless ways to promote it. And the business community, as well as the larger community, would almost certainly provide needed financial support if they believed it could really make a difference. As an added incentive, books purchased online and sent to public schools would be fully tax-deductible. And used books donated would be tax-deductible at their fair market value, giving parents an additional incentive to contribute books their children no longer read. Additional funding support could be could be found through a highly innovative Intelligent Crowdfunding method, which uses school rewards programs as its source of revenue rather than donations (see section on “School Fundraising”).
Collecting books from the highly acclaimed Children's Choices Reading List on www.screadingproject.org, which are chosen annually by 12,500 children in cooperation with the Children's Book Council and the International Literacy Association, represents one of the best opportunities that school districts have to establish the grass-roots community support that is critical to the success of its reading program.
And winning the support of the larger community is one of the 6 important goals for schools outlined
in the South Carolina State Reading Plan.
Realistic - Each school and school district would have to decide for itself what goals are realistic, but they should be goals that represent substantial progress toward improving the number of third graders reading proficiently. And high goals like developing a Summer Reading Initiative built around voluntary pleasure reading, and building an exciting BookSwap Library or organizing a BookSwap Special Community Event have more motivational pull for schools and the community than do more modest goals of improvement.
Community BookSwap™ events are intended to be a recognizable non-profit brand of high energy social events that raise awareness about literacy and engage the larger community. And they could take on many forms. The first key component is that it offers the opportunity for children to exchange books with each other and motivates them to read (a reading pep rally). The second key component is that it is
socially engaging and entertaining for children, parents, teachers, and the community at large.
BookSwap™ pizza party
BookSwap™ Festival with clowns and jugglers and a circus-like atmosphere
BookSwap™ at a community center or church
BookSwap™ sponsored by local news media and held at the local mall
BookSwap™ as part of another community event or entertainment event
BookSwap™ at the YMCA
BookSwap™ at the local library or cultural center
…or create your own community BookSwap™ event. (See PDF link below for downloadable WORKSHEET)
Timely - There is no better time for voluntary pleasure reading than the summer when school is not in session. This is also the time that is associated with a backsliding in reading development for many students. Research shows that to be especially true for students from low-income families for whom a loss in reading proficiency during the summer months is near universal, mostly due to having less access to books than their middle-classed counterparts. But studies show that making books available to children from low-income families and struggling readers actually enhances reading proficiency during the summer months, especially when they choose their own books. And getting these students’ reading skills up to par by the end of third grade could likely mean the difference for them between success in school and graduating from high school, or not.
*The goals of S.M.A.R.T. BookSwap™ are intended to align perfectly with the goals of The South Carolina Reading Plan. It offers as a concise framework for schools to partner with parents, businesses and the larger community to provide the critical grass-roots element of support that the top-down reforms of Read to Succeed need to bring about transformational change. It is based on well-established research about where the focus of educational reform relating to literacy needs to be.
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