Monday, June 19, 2017

McDougle Middle School BOOKS on BREAK

A free book distribution may not be the first activity that comes to mind when considering ways to excite middle school students. Yet the recent Books on Break giveaway at McDougle Middle School generated plenty of enthusiasm from the 101 students who chose books from a Book Harvest collection.

The event was hosted by Jennifer Parks, the media specialist at MMS, but she worked initially with Nancy Zeman, super-volunteer with Books on Break, to create a pilot template for our middle schools. Once the books were donated, Parks received plenty of support from Jennifer Spaeth and other language arts teachers who invited students to participate in the distribution.
Book Harvest, the fast-growing nonprofit based in Durham, usually partners with elementary schools in the region. This year the organization donated more than 16,000 books to CHCCS elementary schools. Yet the need for, and pleasure in, owning books doesn’t end in fifth grade - nor does the summer slide of learning loss disappear.
On June 5, small groups of 6th, 7th and 8th graders arrived at the MMS media center to browse through the 400+ books available. Parks noted that students scooped up all of the Rick Riordan selections quickly, as well as novels by Kwame Alexander and RJ Palacio. She said that “lots of students were excited to come and pick out books who don’t show a similar excitement checking out books during the year.” The enthusiasm didn’t stop when students had selected their three books-- they wanted to advise and make recommendations to their friends who were still choosing.

Summer slide is a major factor in widening achievement gaps. Research shows that gaps in student achievement increase more during the summer, so efforts to provide ongoing literacy support make a real difference. Thanks to the organizers of McDougle Middle School’s pilot Books on Break event, the initiative may expand to other middle schools next spring, and more of our students will bring books home for the summer.