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Curriculum Details for
Reading Is Cool!

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Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
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Content Expert Reviewer

Sara DeMedeiros
Sara Pollock DeMedeiros works as the Assistant Program Director at Tenacity, a youth development program that supports Boston youth in the summer and after school by fostering their literacy, tennis, and life skills. She supports staff in structuring high quality after-school programs for middle school students, and leads the development of Tenacity's literacy curriculum and instruction. Before coming to Tenacity four years ago, Sara taught 7th grade English as a Second Language in Washington, DC, and received her Masters in Education from Harvard University's Risk and Prevention Program.

Content

  • The Reading is Cool curriculum covers recreational reading.
  • It offers guidelines for how any afterschool program can create a positive literacy-based experience for children ages 7-14, using silent reading, reading aloud, and journaling or writing.
  • The guide also describes general literacy development, creating a print rich environment, and implementing reading and writing activities.
  • Strategies for building community, participant, and family support for Reading is Cool are also included.
  • The content is accurate and makes a strong argument for the benefits of integrating a literacy component into an afterschool program.

Skills

Academic Skills
  • Reading, writing, speaking and listening using sustained silent reading, journaling, and reading aloud.
  • It is not a skills-based curriculum, but instead seeks to helps students enjoy reading and understand that literacy skill affect all aspects of life.
Study Skills
  • Does not explicitly develop study or organization skills, although a program could incorporate these into their lessons.
Non-Academic Skills
  • Promotes using literacy as a tool for students to learn many interpersonal and community-building skills.
  • The guide suggests that any skill could be taught using the tenets of Reading is Cool.

Alignment to Standards

  • The guide provides a list of sample state standards with recommendations for how the standard might look in a recreational reading program.
  • In addition, the guide recommends that programs investigate their own state standards in order to assess what they are already doing in the area of literacy.

Assessment

  • Student learning is not explicitly assessed, although student accomplishments are measured.
  • Learning can be assessed through the completion of student projects.

Structure

  • Program is method of infusing literacy into existing afterschool programs.
  • The curriculum is largely made up of strategies that could be used within almost any context, rather than pre-defined lessons and sequences.
  • Includes an outline of suggestions for how to phase certain literacy elements into a program over the first year of implementation.
  • There is an even mix between teacher- and student-directed activities. Many of the suggested lessons require collaborative work among the students, pointing to more student-directed learning, where students are responsible for the outcomes and structure of their learning.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

Adaptability
  • Reading is Cool is adaptable to the needs of individual students. For example, the “children reading aloud” component describes how some children are at a level where they can read aloud from a book, while others would be more suited to telling a story without using a book.
  • Within the guidelines for creating a print-rich environment, the instructor is reminded that not all children understand print the same way.
  • Suggestions include ideas such as displaying sign language posters, story quilts, and having reading materials such as magazines, newspapers, and books on tape.
Developmental level
  • The program is targeted at ages 5-14. 
  • The guide describes literacy development and summarizes the general stages that correspond with each age group, allowing the instructor to help gear activities toward any age group.
  • Some suggested activities also include older children helping or reading to younger ones.
Learning Styles Addressed
  • This curriculum can be used to teach to any learning style.
  • Movement/spatial learning: instructors are encouraged to create their own activities. One suggestion for an activity was inspired by an invented game that combined badminton, baseball, kickball, and twister.
  • Interpersonal learning: Instructors are encouraged to use pictures and stories to develop empathy in students, and to teach that all people should be treated fairly and with kindness. Many of the sample activities also require that students work with partners or in a group.
  • Artistic learning: Journaling is a key component of the program.  Traditional journal writing as well as activities such as making collages and creating comic strips are also suggested.
Multiculturalism
  • The books included in the curriculum have a special focus on multicultural reading materials.
  • The guide advocates for programs to use books and other reading materials that represent the cultures and backgrounds of all students and families in the group, as well as cultures to which they might not regularly be exposed.
  • Many storytelling activities where students talk, write, and create art about their backgrounds are included.
  • The guide offers specific advice for teachers about interacting with students and families of different backgrounds, especially children who are learning English as a second language, and families who might speak another language or face other barriers to involvement.
  • Provides tips on how to intervene when bias occurs in the program.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Programs of all types can use curriculum in a way that is most appropriate and useful to them.
  • Curriculum is suited to the needs of afterschool programs.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Some users might feel overwhelmed by the lack of structure, and may want more concrete guidelines and scripted activities.
  • Reading is Cool may be too basic for programs already committed to teaching literacy.


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