The children walk excitedly into the media center at Ruby Bridges Elementary School. They seat themselves on the rug in front of the rocking chair and wait for Connie Chapman, the teacher/librarian for AUSD's Summer School programs. They listen with rapt attention as Ms. Chapman reads Eric Carle's classic, The Very Busy Spider. And then the really, really good part comes: From tables covered with books, the children choose four titles to bring home.
The program, called "Summer Book Bucks Fair," was the brain child of Chapman (who serves as the Otis Elementary School teacher/librarian during the school year) and Roxanne Clement (the teacher/librarian at Bay Farm School). Several years ago, Clement created a program out of Bay Farm School called “Library in a Box,” through which books are collected and shipped to schools and agencies in need around the state, country, and world. Clement’s program has donated 1300 books to the Summer Book Bucks Fair the last two years. Otis families donated more than 800 new and gently books. And with additional money made available by AUSD, Chapman also bought steeply discounted contemporary trade books through Scholastic.
"Some of our summer school students have trouble with reading while others are acquiring English. Reading for pleasure helps with both," Chapman says. "There is a direct connection between a child’s recreational reading frequency and their academic performance. So the goal of this program is to both foster a love of reading and teach students how to select books they will be able read and enjoy."
Instructional versus Recreational Reading
AUSD offers summer school to students who can benefit from extra support and who: attend Title 1 elementary schools, are English Language Learners, or are receiving special education services. About 360 students are enrolled in the four-week program this year.
To help the students find books that they can truly read for pleasure, Chapman coaches them on how to choose a book at their recreational reading level (which is different from their instructional reading level, where reading is a bit more condensed and slightly challenging). She also encourages reviewing back covers for plot points and looking for award winners (think Caldecott and Newbery). The children are given one "book buck" for each day they attend school (and another for working hard), which they can then use to "buy" books when they go to the library each week. To make book bucks seem like real currency, Chapman and a few volunteers made each of the 400 students a duct tape wallet as well.
"My goal is for each child to buy 12-20 books by the end of summer school," Chapman says.
The program is a huge hit with the kids. "This is the second year that we've done it, and even in the first week of school this summer, children were coming up to me and saying, 'when do we get our books?'" Chapman says.
And that, she adds, is what it's all about. "I really, really want to turn our struggling readers into big recreational readers," Chapman says. "I want them to learn the magic of completely losing themselves in a good book."
How You Can Help
Once schools are in session, you can email Connie Chapman at email@example.com if you would like to donate gently used children’s books (preschool to 5th grade level) for the program. (Note: board books for preschoolers are in especially short supply!)
Upcoming Board of Education Meetings
August 9, 2016
City Hall, 6:30 pm
August 23, 2016
City Hall, 6:30 pm