Project READS (Reading Enhances Achievement During Summer) is a voluntary scaffolded summer reading program with two primary components. In the spring, just prior to the end of the school year, students in the program are taught six lessons (each lasting approximately one hour) during the school day. These lessons are focused around reading strategies that are designed to help beginning readers to read outside of school, with limited or no adult supports. Parents are also invited with their children to attend an afterschool family literacy event focused on the READS comprehension activities. Then during the summer, each student is mailed 10 books, one per week. Students are tested for reading comprehension in the spring and fall. The spring test serves as a baseline measure of reading skills, and the fall test serves as a post-test.
The books are chosen to match each student’s reading skill level and reading interests as best as possible. Reading skill levels are measured using the spring baseline reading comprehension test, which are translated into Lexiles, a proprietary system designed to align reading skills with the difficulty of children’s books. Students are also asked questions about the types of books they would like to read. Using an algorithm, books are then chosen that best match each student’s interest among those that are the appropriate difficulty given the student’s baseline reading skill level.
We implemented Project READS for 2nd and 3rd graders in 463 classrooms in 59 public schools in 7 North Carolina school districts in the spring and summer of 2013. Students randomly selected to be in the treatment group were given six reading comprehension lessons in the spring that focused on reading activities designed to foster children’s engagement with books at home during the summer. Parents were also invited to an afterschool family literacy event where they learned about the READS activities. Treatment group students were then mailed 10 books, one per week, during the summer. The books were matched to students based on their baseline reading skill level and their interests. Students were encouraged to read the books, and were asked to mail a tri-fold after they read each book; the tri-fold included three comprehension questions about each book and a few questions designed to prompt the students to use the reading strategies taught during the spring lessons. Students assigned to the control group received no books during the summer, and participated in six mathematics lessons during the spring while the treatment students participated in the reading lessons.