By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — This summer, for the first time, the Indiana Department of Education is offering 3,000 free books to students online as a part of its summer reading initiative.
Hoosier Family of Readers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said on the IDOE’s website, establishes a collaboration between families, schools and community partners to help develop a culture of readers in Indiana.
To reach a wider audience, the IDOE is providing unlimited access to reading materials through its partner myON that matches student interest and reading level with content to personalize learning.
“It sounds like a great program to get kids reading,” said Dawn Sachse, a fourth-grade teacher at Tenth Street Elementary.
Having gone on vacation shortly after school ended, Sachse hasn’t had much of a chance to peruse the website, but said it’s important to keep kids reading over the summer.
She sends out a letter to parents at the end of each school year asking them to encourage their kids to keep doing just that. With multiple free programs available to children over the summer, she also suggest kids check out the Anderson Public Library.
Statistics show summer reading helps children retain information they’ve learned over the school year, she said, and helps them discover new topics. Many of the children enjoy non-fiction and reading about issues in history and science, she added.
“If they read (over the summer), they’re so much more advanced than if they don’t,” she said.
Research spanning 100 years shows students often score lower on standardized tests they take at the end of summer break than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association.
Lori Morris, a fifth-grade teacher at Frankton Elementary, said she can tell who’s been reading over the summer and who hasn’t.
She liked the idea of the IDOE’s online reading program, incorporating the technology kids love so much. But she too also suggests the library as a great resource.
“I encourage them (the kids) to pick an author they’ve enjoyed over the year and take the time to explore,” she said.
They pick an author of the month every year in her class. By the end of the year, she said the kids are suggesting authors to her.
And after the kids have read a book during the summer, she encourages them to write about what they read, perhaps by getting creative and rewriting the ending. She had one little girl two years ago who still loves to show off her stories and poems.
Morris added that Frankton Elementary also requires students to read at least one book of their choosing over the summer and come in to test on it.
During the school year, Sachse asks the students to read 20 minutes every night — studies show that’s all it takes to be a better reader, she said — and has them participate in Reading Counts, a program in which they receive medals and certificates for being top readers.
“So many students get excited about reading and love the competition,” she said.
The younger the kids start reading, the better, Morris said, adding parents should read to their young ones before they’re old enough to read on their own. It better prepares them for school.
The Indiana Department of Education’s free book access can be found at www.myon.com/login/Hoosier.
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