November 05, 2014 15:03 Age: 3 yrs

“The Running of the Books”: How AF Summit Middle Improves Reading

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Karaugh Prugar is the operations associate at AF Summit Middle.


AF Summit Middle students come to our school from every neighborhood in Hartford. With them, they bring a wide range of experiences and expectations from the myriad of schools they attended before enrolling here. As a founding school, the “baseline” student knowledge we measure at the beginning of the school year marks the true starting point of a student’s experience with Achievement First, since the vast majority of our students are new to our network. As we approach the middle of the first term, it is exciting to see seedlings of student growth.


We know that a child’s ability to read is vital to his or her ability to learn. Even before our students entered the building on August 20, we conducted reading assessments to determine their reading levels and prepare reading groups to nurture and support each student’s individual needs. Since the school year began, our students have started each day with book clubs. Teacher Jennifer Needham leads close-reading lessons and focuses on vocabulary during literature, and reading is incorporated into every lesson throughout the day. As educators, we knew we needed to bring this love of reading and emphasis on reading achievement to the next level. We had to do more to make it fun and show our students just how proud we are of their hard work.


That is why we held our school’s first “Running of the Books” event. Students read and discussed a passage about the traditional running of the bulls in Spain before they walked into hallways filled with more than 1,000 books donated by local community partners and friends of AF Summit Middle. Students joyfully ran through the halls collecting books they’d use to build their own personal libraries before they were tagged by the “bull,” a part played to Broadway standards by our principal, Ben Cruse.


It felt really wonderful to watch students carry bags overflowing with books out of school that afternoon. They had fun and were eager to bring books home to share with their families. I even heard one student say he collected a book below his reading level so he could give it to his younger brother.


In the past few weeks, we have “spot-checked” our students’ reading proficiency gains and confirmed they are showing seedlings of growth. Student reading levels are rising, and we’re recognizing student achievement with special, student-autographed photographs on our bulletin board. Students are excited and proud, and while some may progress faster than others, we are seeing gains in every student. At AF Summit Middle, we are already planning more events to continue this momentum, and instill in our students the joy of reading.







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