Budding Authors: Summer Reading program expands student creativity

This summer, San Benito CISD implemented a spectacular summer school program, “Summer Semester — a Reading, Writing, and Research Across the Content Areas,” designed by American Reading Company.

The intensive reading intervention program, Summer Semester, uses close reading of informational text with nonfiction writing to develop academic vocabulary, background knowledge, and test preparedness and proficiency.

First, teachers determined their students’ independent reading level, and students read broadly from a leveled library of literary text.

Then, each student chose their own topics to research, performed daily structured writing tasks, and self-published a nonfiction book.

Elsa Peña, a second grade teacher at Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary, taught the Summer Semester program for the Intensive Reading Bilingual students at Fred Booth Elementary this summer.

“It was an amazing experience. I greatly enjoyed my time teaching summer school, especially because I witnessed a lot of growth in the students. It was quite rewarding,” said Peña.

One of Peña’s students, Jorge Antonio Maldonado, Jr., was particularly proud of his self-written and illustrated book, “Go! Go! Cheetahs.”

“It was exciting to write and do something for someone I love while learning,” Maldonado said, explaining that his book was dedicated to his mom.

This project-based learning is designed to stimulate and challenge students to read like detectives and write like reporters, thus helping them to expand their vocabulary and content knowledge.

Frank Roberts Elementary Principal Linda Molina explains that the district utilized American Reading Company’s Independent Reading Level Assessment (IRLA) reading framework during this summer’s acceleration program at Fred Booth Elementary and Judge Oscar De La Fuente Elementary.

The framework serves as an essential diagnostic and formative assessment tool, enabling teachers to establish a baseline reading level and outline a course of remediation, acceleration, or maintenance for each child.

“All activities were hands on. We have seen a tremendous growth in the students, not only in their reading ability but also in their confidence,” Molina proudly explains.

“They’re loving the books that they’re reading, so therefore, they want to read all the time,” she adds.

Executive Director of Academic Services Julie Treviño shared a similar sentiment, “This type of hands on program helps to instill the love of reading in our students.”

During the regular school year, the district will be implementing a new reading framework — the IRLA and its Spanish counterpart, the Evaluación del nivel independiente de lectura (ENIL) — also from American Reading Company.

These assessments consists of establishing baseline proficiency reading level for each student, develop an action plan to ensure reading proficiency for every student and monitor progress towards reading on or above grade level goals.

Molina is hoping that the new frameworks will empower San Benito students to make positive strides during the regular school year as well.

“We want the students to come to school during the regular year and also use the same strategies and have that same love of reading,” she said.