A growing body of evidence demonstrates that the achievement gap between low income children, especially African American and Hispanic children, and their middle class peers is due less to what happens in the school year and more to what happens in the summer months. Low-income children learn at the same rate as other children during the school year but fall far behind in the summer months, especially in reading. By the fifth grade, the cumulative effect is disastrous. In response to this alarming research, WGBH proposes a summer reading intervention for at-risk children built around a highly engaging set of literacy activities offered in summer Reading Dens. This media-rich environment, with evidence-based activities, will bridge the ‘lost’ months of summer, supporting children in vocabulary and reading skills across a variety of digital platforms and delivering them to kindergarten and first grade ready to read and Ready to Learn.
The Reading Den initiative is grounded in deep partnerships stressing local customization and ownership of the literacy mission. First, the Reading Dens will be housed in school and community libraries, preschool programs, churches, YWCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs and shelters for homeless families. Second, the University of Alabama will create online courses and for-credit programs that can be adapted by local universities and communities colleges and will draw on the resources of WGBH’s popular Teachers’ Domain. Third, the University of Texas’ nationally known library sciences department will design a program to expand Reading Dens to libraries nationally. Fourth, a Technology Advisory Board will help to align literacy assets across a variety of digital platforms. Finally, a rigorous evaluation by AED will test the appeal and effectiveness of Reading Den projects, informing the structure and content of subsequent summer programs.
The remarkable archive of WGBH literacy content from Between the Lions will be the foundation of the Reading Dens. New media designed specifically for the Reading Dens’ digital world will engage and guide children toward new literacy skills and the opportunity to become life-long readers.