Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Literacy

Curriculum Details for
Reading Is Cool!

Practitioner Expert
Content Expert
Reading Is Cool!
Publication Date: 2000
Grade Level: K–8
Content Focus: Literacy
Costs: $650
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
School’s Out Washington
801 23rd Ave, Suite A
Seattle, WA, 98144
(206) 323-2396

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Program Description

Design Summary

Reading is COOL is designed specifically for the afterschool setting. The goals of the program are to encourage students to enjoy recreational reading, increase exposure to literacy-based activities and resources, and expand access to culturally relevant literature.  The program’s mission is also to encourage students to think about reading as a part of everyday life, and help students learn to see reading in everyday life and to choose reading as a recreational activity.  Reading is COOL promotes relationships, community, pride, service, connection to school, and building students’ self-image as learners.

Materials include a curriculum guide and a kit containing 40 titles for reading, covering many genres and representing a range of cultural backgrounds.  There are blank journals for students to record their thoughts and progress, as well as prizes and other incentives to be given as awards for self-directed reading.  Various assessment tools are included within the curriculum as well. Multiple learning styles are addressed, as the curriculum emphasizes different ways to practice literacy skills, including through physical activity, reading, listening, writing, and other means of engagement.

Costs and Staff Training

The Curriculum Guide and Kit costs $650, and the guide can also be purchased separately for $29.95.  There are grants offered to local programs to supplement costs.

Training is available but not required and comes at a cost of $1,900 for a 5-hour onsite session. Programs have the option of partnering with each other for a team training at a reduced cost.  A few times per year free trainings are offered in Washington state, where the curriculum is published.

Staff Qualifications

The curriculum was created to be delivered by afterschool providers, so formal teaching experience is not needed to implement Reading is Cool. Content expert reviews support this, suggesting also that an instructor may need to think creatively and have strong buy-in to the importance of infusing a program with literacy activities.

Standards Alignment

  • National: None specified.
  • State: None specified, although they provide information to help programs align with state-specific standards.

Research Base

The Search Institute Developmental Assets serve as the foundation for Reading is COOL.

Evaluation Details

There has not been a formal evaluation of Reading is COOL, but the program has been mentioned as exemplary by the Chapin Hall Center for Children.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

  • Based on great ideas with great potential.
  • The trainers and representatives from the company seemed inviting and friendly.
  • Programs of all types can use it in a way that is appropriate to them.
  • Curriculum is suited to the needs of afterschool programs.
  • 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.
  • Some may feel that more resources, ideas, and guidance are needed.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

This practitioner has been an afterschool program coordinator for the past eleven years, and started using the Reading is Cool kit about three years ago. Her program includes students who are 5-12 years old, uses it informally on a regular basis to supplement her existing program.  Many of her students are low-income and from Latino backgrounds.


  • Attended a formal training.
  • Preparation time consisted of choosing an activity or additional materials.
  • Can be used effectively both a large group activity, with 24 students, or in small groups of four to five students. Activities can be adapted to most any size, but seems to work better in a small group.

Student Engagement

  • Students enjoyed that something new was added into the classroom.
  • Games and activities that introduced the math topics were fun, challenging, and helped them learn.
  • Content was appropriate for the targeted age group.


Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Adaptability depends on the creativity of the students and instructor.
General skills taught
  • Could easily be used to teach non-academic skills, such as social skills.
  • Could easily apply books to real life.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • A few books were offered for Spanish speaking students.
  • There were some books introducing students to different cultures.

Strengths and Challenges

  • Based on great ideas with great potential.
  • The trainers and representatives from the company were inviting and friendly.
  • This practitioner found no major challenges with the curriculum.

Content Expert Review

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.


  • 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.


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.


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


  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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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