Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Cougar Readers: Piloting a Library-Based Intervention for Struggling Readers

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Cougar Readers: Piloting a Library-Based Intervention for Struggling Readers

Article excerpt

A school librarian helped struggling third-grade readers improve their test scores and learn to enjoy reading by implementing the Reading Apprenticeship intervention at her isolated rural school. She recruited twenty-one local adult volunteers to read with student partners in the school library twice a week for twelve weeks. Participants were enthusiastic, averaging more than 21 completed sessions. From pre- to post-test, students gained an average of 24.8 WPM on the DIBELS (138% of expected gain) and 9.1 months on the STAR (303% of expected gain). Teachers' written observations also noted associated positive changes in classroom reading skills and behaviors. Recommendations for use of this intervention by other school librarians are included.

Introduction

For over two decades, research has repeatedly demonstrated the significant impact of school libraries and librarians on students' reading achievement in schools. Numerous studies in the United States have shown that students in schools where libraries are open longer, have greater funding for print and digital resources, and employ more professional staffscore significantly higher on standardized reading tests, even when student SES, overall school funding, and community education levels are factored in (see, for example, Achterman, 2009; Hamilton-Pennell, Lance, Rodney, & Hainer, 2000; Lance & Hofschier, 2012; Lance, Welborn, & Hamilton-Pennell, 1990). Krashen, Lee & McQuillan (2010) found the same relationship in their analysis of PIRLS (2006) data from 36 countries; access to larger school libraries (i.e., over 500 books) accounted for nearly as much of the variance in reading scores among countries as SES (see also, Krashen, 2011b). Yet because schools, districts and even policy makers frequently fail to recognize the contribution school librarians can make to student achievement (Knapp, 2011), school libraries increasingly face local, state, and even federal funding cuts (ALA, 2012), in part because "just reading," as opposed to receiving instruction, studying, or preparing for tests, is similarly undervalued in today's "hyper-accountable" education climate (Krashen, 2009).

Yet, frequent reading of and response to meaningful, connected text is one of the two cornerstones of balanced reading instruction (Freppon & Dahl 1998; Pressley 2001). Recreational reading, also known as self-selected reading or free voluntary reading (Krashen 2011a), can be defined as the voluntary reading of personally-chosen text solely for enjoyment, rather than in response to an outside requirement or school assignment. It is one of the strongest correlates to reading achievement at all levels (Alexander, 2007; Garan & Devoogd, 2008; Mol & Bus, 2011; National Endowment for the Arts, 2007), and in multiple populations, including English Language Learners, (Krashen, 2009), young teens (Howard, 2001), developmental college students (Paulson, 2006), and even deaf adults (Parault & Williams, 2010). But time allocated for such "free" reading is being increasingly edged out of the regular school day in the United States (Block & Mangieri, 2002; DeBenedictus, 2007), in part because teachers and schools feel pushed by recent federal and state-level accountability mandates (e.g., GDOE, n.d.; NCLB, 2002) to spend more time in direct instruction of basic skills that are perceived as transferring more directly into improved achievement on standardized tests (Gallagher, 2010). This loss of school time set aside for personally meaningful reading is particularly damaging to struggling readers, who often are unable or unwilling to engage in recreational reading on their own at home (Baker & Wigfield, 1999; Cunningham & Stanovich, 2003; Lipola, Salonen, & Vauras, 2000).

School librarians are ideally positioned to address this problem. Good school libraries are full of enticing books for students reading at all levels and with a wide variety of tastes and interests, and good school librarians are experts at matching books to kids (Gordon, 2010). …

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