In 1998, Debbie Bones, the instructional coach at Hartly Elementary School, purchased Renaissance Accelerated Reader with a grant from a local bank. While times have changed, popular trends have come and gone, and former students have grown up, one thing remains constant—Accelerated Reader.
Capital School District, encompassing the greater area of Dover, Delaware, is home to more than 6,250 K–12 students spread across 12 unique schools—one of them being Hartly. Dover sits next to the Atlantic Ocean and is 90 or so miles from Washington D.C. Home of the Senators, Capital was founded in 1925 and is focused on meeting the needs of the whole child.
In addition to Accelerated Reader, schools across the district use Renaissance Star 360. The elementary schools are also piloting Renaissance myON and Renaissance myON News, this summer to give students 24/7 access to digital books and news articles. However, Accelerated Reader is still being used in addition to the core reading programs that teachers in the district implement each fall for incoming students.
The challenge: Getting students to fall in love with reading
Before Bones implemented Accelerated Reader all that time ago, students’ interest in books was waning. There were fewer and fewer visitors to Hartly’s library and getting students to read during scheduled reading times was tough. Determined to change that, Bones looked into different reading programs and stumbled upon Accelerated Reader. While doing so, she discovered a local bank was giving schools in the area grants for reading materials. Figuring it was worth a shot, Bones purchased Accelerated Reader and Star 360 to make sure students had the right books in their hands. The rest, as they say…is history.
The results: Summers filled with books, laughs, and growth
How Accelerated Reader is used each school year is up to the individual teachers at Hartly, but teachers have noticed a big jump in reading when Accelerated Reader is intertwined in their reading programs. Students who have shown little interest in reading have been known to gobble up books and challenge themselves to read more difficult books using Accelerated Reader.
A big part of the district’s implementation of Accelerated Reader is their annual summer reading program. Each summer, Hartly’s library remains open with dedicated summer hours and is staffed by volunteer teachers. Carts of color-coded books are wheeled into the library and organized for the students. Throughout, streamers and fun beach-themed decorations are up on display to welcome students and their families. Students can read at the library and take Accelerated Reader quizzes to show what they’ve learned, or they can choose a book, go home and read, and come back to take an Accelerated Reader quiz when they’re ready. The choice is up to them.
“Our summer reading program gives our students an opportunity to meet their new teachers before the fall and a chance to catch up with their favorite teachers from the past school year,” said Bones. “Our teachers enjoy it just as much as the students. It’s a nice way to see what students are up to during the summer months.”
“Our teachers enjoy it just as much as the students.”
Instructional Coach, Hartly Elementary School
Tammy Augustus, the principal at Hartly, also hosts Facebook Live videos throughout the summer to keep students and families up-to-date. Now in its third year, the summer reading program has had a different theme each time to keep it fresh and different. For 2019, the theme is “books on the beach”.
The impact is huge. While the summer reading program gives teachers a chance to interact with their students during the summer, the results are also showing up in the classroom come fall. The summer slide—the reading loss that happens when students are not in school during the summer months—can be a challenge for both educators and families. However, getting books in the hands of students is making a major difference.
New this summer, the district is also piloting myON and myON News. The plan is to offer these programs along with Accelerated Reader during books on the beach, giving students a digital reading option.
“I’m excited to see how we can work both programs into books on the beach,” said Bones. “In this day and age, it’s important to offer students a choice for a digital reading option as well.”
“In this day and age, it’s important to offer students a choice for a digital reading option as well.”
Instructional Coach, Hartly Elementary School
Hartly’s summer reading program brings books to students living around the area, giving them an option when the normal public library in Dover might be too far of a drive. The program touches students’ lives and makes a difference. For Debbie Bones? That’s the absolute best part.
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