Wrapping Up the School Year

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As the school year draws to a close, we would like to take the time to thank you for all your hard work and dedication to sharing a love of reading with your reading partner! The last day of school is typically in early June, and most volunteers end their reading sessions for the year by the last week of May. Check LAUSD’s instructional calendars to find out when the last day of school is, and ask your teacher or school site contact to determine the last day they would like volunteers to come to campus.

The end of the year is a wonderful time to reflect and congratulate your student on their hard work and accomplishments. It’s also a great time to have some fun! As you prepare for the end of the school year, keep in mind the following goals for your final reading session:

  • Reflect on your student’s accomplishments.
  • Congratulate your student on their hard work.
  • Motivate your student for summer reading and learning.

Preparing for Your Last Reading Session

Before you begin your last reading session, consider asking yourself a few questions. What message would you like to give your student now that the year is almost over? What do you hope your student will take away from your year together? How will you say goodbye to your student and their teacher? What have you learned from your student this year? Keep these questions in mind as you prepare for your last reading session, and review these ideas to create lasting memories:

  • Write a letter for your student congratulating them on a great year of reading. As the end of the year is a time of reflecting, being thankful, and celebrating achievements, be sure to do a little bit of that for yourself about your time with your student. Don’t forget to write a letter to thank your student’s teacher as well and/or any school staff members that were helpful to you this year.
  • Create a “certificate of achievement” for your student on your computer or use a pre-made one from one of these helpful websites to give to your student to keep. Print in black and white so your student can color it in and decorate it.
  • Bring a small gift such as some stickers, a bookmark, or a high-interest book with a personal parting note inside. If your student is graduating this year, consider giving a dictionary or other graduation gift.
  • Compile a “keepsake” book of your student’s work. Collect any papers, stories, or drawings you may have done with your student and make them into a book for your student to take home as a reminder of all the fun you had together. The activity will give them pride in their work and will keep them thinking about all the great books they read with you and how much they can really enjoy reading! Give them any other materials that they have worked on during the course of the school year, like composition notebooks or workbooks, and encourage them to keep using them.
  • Brainstorm a “Summer Bucket List.” Write down all of the fun things that each of you want to do over the summer, and then have your reading partner draw a picture to accompany the list.
  • Bring craft supplies and make each other cards for the end of the year, or help your student make several cards for their teacher, principal and classmates (see “End of Year Letter” worksheets). It’s a fun way to remember the year and send well-wishes to everyone involved in your student’s success!
  • Read one or two “end-of-the-year” books. Continue reading from the book you’ve been reading together all year, reread a favorite, or read a book specifically about the last day of school (we have a great end-of-the-year book list here).
  • Save the last session for fun. Some volunteers spend the last reading session teaching origami or playing games. Try writing a fun summer acrostic poem with your student.

Another important factor to consider when preparing your final reading session is how you will motivate your student to read over the summer, increase their access to books, and encourage parental involvement. By properly preparing your student for summer learning, you can prevent your student from losing up to a month of reading achievements, which we will discuss next.

Ask a volunteer: What are some tips for the last reading session of the year?

  • Dream Town by Michelle Markel is a book about L.A. and its monuments, and a great book to read on your last session.
  • If you know you won’t be working with the same student next year, you can say, “You’ve improved,” and, “You don’t need my help anymore.”
  • Target, The 99 Cent Store, Lakeshore Learning Center, etc. are great resources for finding certificates, stickers, keepsake bookmarks to give to your student!
  • Print a black-and-white bookmark for your student to color in and keep.
  • Children’s dictionaries make a great gift. Some good ones are from Merriam-Webster, Macmillan, DK Illustrated Dictionary, and My First Dictionary.

Encouraging Summer Learning

Over the summer months, because they are not in school every day, students risk suffering the effects of summer slide, a common phenomenon where students lose some of the achievement gains they had made during the previous school year. One of the most influential studies on summer slide found that students’ test scores tend to backtrack about a month by the time they return to school in the fall.

You can encourage your student to read over the summer to prevent this learning loss. Here are some tips to motivate your student to keep reading over the summer:

  • Set reading goals during your last session to put your student in the mindset to read over the summer. Have your student keep track of their goals and the books they read by using one of these summer reading logs.
  • Share summer reading lists. Celebrate summer by reading a summer book with your student during your last session, then share a summer-themed booklist like this one from KOREH L.A. or a Scholastic summer book list for students ages 6-7, 8-10, and 11-13. You can also use the knowledge you have about your student’s interests to get them hooked on reading by helping them create a summer reading list of their own.
  • Make summer reading social. Encourage your student to get together with other children such as siblings, cousins or friends to discuss their interests and talk about books on their lists.

Summer slide is particularly detrimental for students from low-income families. Why? According to one theory, the “resource faucet” is on for all students during the school year, but over the summer the faucet “turns off” for students from low-income households as they lose access to resources that higher-income students continue to have access to such as bookstores, libraries, tutors, etc. However, these students can actually improve their reading skills over the summer if given access to books that actively interest and engage them. One study found that giving students 12 books to read over the summer was as effective as summer school in raising students’ reading scores, and that this increase was the most pronounced for low-income students. Giving students a choice of reading material is a critical part of the intervention because not only are the kids motivated to read the material, but the words and facts they learn will build on knowledge they already possess.

Although KOREH L.A. volunteers don’t work with their students over the summer, you can encourage your student to utilize a few resources to increase their access to reading materials:

  • Introduce your student to summer reading programs that offer free books and other incentives. KOREH L.A.’s Summer Bookworms Club is a great place to start. Students who read five books at home, fill out the sheet, and have a parent or guardian sign it, will continue receiving free books while they are on summer vacation. Contact us for more information. There are several other online summer reading programs for students as well. One of the most popular is the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, where students log the minutes they read online, earn rewards, and have the opportunity to win free books. Barnes & Noble also hosts a Summer Reading Triathlon, where kids in grades 1 through 6 can earn a free featured book if they fill out and submit a Barnes & Noble reading journal.
  • Encourage library use. Public libraries do a wonderful job at promoting family literacy and often have summer reading programs, story hours, reading tutors and more. Print an application for your student for the County of Los Angeles Public Library or the Los Angeles Public Library and take it with you to your last session! Encourage students to take advantage of the free resources available at their local library. They may not realize that they can check out movies and video games, use the computer, or join community reading programs. If your student is a reluctant reader, tell them about audio books or audiovisual read-along websites. These can be great ways to expand their minds during the summer by removing the obstacles that may stand in their way.
  • Share resources for parents. In addition to having access to books, parents who take their children to the library during the summer and encourage them to read books of interest to them can help their students make gains in reading scores as well. Print out our Summer Reading Resources for Parents, which includes information on the KOREH L.A. Summer Bookworms Challenge as well as other summer learning activities throughout Los Angeles. Encourage your student to bring the worksheet home to their parents. If you are already in touch with your student’s teacher, ask the teacher for help to ensure the resources get home to the parents.

For more information on increasing students’ access to books, go to Bookworms Club and Other Ideas to Get Books to Students.

Ask a volunteer: How do you prepare students for summer learning and increase their access to books?

  • Say goodbye by telling your reading partner to “Have a good summer, keep reading!” and “Always read, even it’s for 10 minutes.”
  • If you’re currently reading a book with your student and don’t finish by the end of the school year, gift the book so your student can finish reading it over the summer.
  • Index cards are wonderful to have on hand during your sessions so you can give them to your student to study over the summer. Make students feel like they’re the teachers by asking them to teach sight words on the index cards to younger siblings or pets.
  • Encourage your student to participate in library summer reading programs.
  • Summer Bridge Workbooks are great to give to students to work on over the summer. You can find them at Lakeshore Learning, Barnes & Noble, or online.
  • This website has a summer reading packet with some great word games to gift to your student over the summer.
  • Costco has workbooks by grade level, as do Children’s Book World and Storyopolis. Word search booklets are great as well.
  • Encourage your student to participate in BARK (Beach Animals Reading to Kids), an all-volunteer program that encourages children to increase their reading skills and self-confidence by reading aloud to certified therapy dogs.

Summer Volunteer Opportunities

Congratulations! You have finished the school year and made a difference in the life of a student through KOREH L.A.! But just because the school year is over doesn’t mean that there are no more opportunities to share your passion for literacy with others in your community and inspire reading in other young readers. One idea: start a book club with your friends or host a summer dinner party, inviting guests to come with donated books to donate to KOREH L.A. or drop off at a local LAUSD school. There are so many more ways to get involved! Here are some of our favorite programs to volunteer at over the summer:

  • Participate in The Jewish Federation’s Community Service Days. Volunteers participate in meaningful and impactful projects across Los Angeles that address issues such as poverty, access to food, and environmental sustainability. Time varies by location and project.
  • Summer Night Lights is a summer program sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) that takes place in 32 locations across Los Angeles with the goal of reducing gang related violence. For the past four years, KOREH L.A. has partnered with SNL and trained staff members to create and conduct “Literacy Corners” in the parks. SNL encourages community residents to be guest readers at an SNL site and do a read aloud at the Literacy Corner. The Literacy Corner engages children, youth, and adults to promote literacy and provide access to literature. If you are interested in being a guest reader at SNL site, check out the list of Summer Night Lights sites here and then contact us and we can help you get in touch with a Site Coordinator.
  • Reading to Kids volunteers read aloud to small groups of K-5th grade students, facilitate craft activities, and distribute free books. Reading clubs are hosted at multiple LAUSD elementary schools around the downtown area, the second Saturday of every month, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM. For more information, visit www.readingtokids.org or call (310) 479-7455.
  • LA’S BEST volunteers provide homework assistance or act as activity leaders for LAUSD students. Coordinators will help volunteers find their fit based on interests. For more information, visit www.lasbest.org or call (213) 745-1900, ext. 52963.
  • Centro Latino for Literacy volunteers help teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to teens and adults while assisting in job readiness and computer skills. Volunteers can also assist with fundraising efforts, and lend their programming and instructional design experience to create visual learning materials. Classes are during the week for 2.5-3 hour intervals. Prospects must attend an orientation session before beginning and be at least 18 years of age. Literacy in both English and Spanish is preferred. For more information, visit www.centrolatinoliteracy.org or e-mail info@centrolatinoliteracy.org.
  • Los Angeles Public Library volunteer opportunities vary by library location, but may involve working with groups of children, helping to set up projects, and helping children with crafts. Volunteers may also work with adults as a book discussion leader or tutor adult students one-on-one. Teens over the age of 14 may also volunteer in different capacities depending on location. Most libraries will ask for at least a six-month volunteer commitment. For more information, visit www.lapl.org/get-involved/volunteer or contact your local library.
  • Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: Literally Healing volunteers read aloud at patients’ bedsides, distribute free books and lead reading sessions at Children’s Hospital of L.A.’s very own story corner. Stories are centered on themes of hope and courage. Training may be required depending on the volunteer position. Teens 15 and older may be able to volunteer in other capacities. You must be 18 or over to work directly with patients and commit 100 hours of service in no less than six months of consecutive service. For more information, visit www.chla.org or e-mail literallyhealing@chla.usc.edu.
  • School on Wheels volunteers provide educational resources to homeless children in Southern California through one-on-one weekly tutoring sessions, packing backpacks, canvassing or recruiting interns for one hour per week for at least one year. Teens ages 12-15 can tutor with an adult family member. For more information, visit www.schoolonwheels.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.
  • Stephen S. Wise Temple’s Freedom School volunteer opportunities include leading a morning reading, assisting with afternoon activities, chaperoning field trips, or serving the children a nutritious snack! For more information, visit www.wisela.org/freedom-school-volunteers/ or e-mail FreedomSchool@WiseLA.org.
  • L.A. Works – Let’s Read volunteers work with students one-on-one in areas that they need the most improvement and then sit down with them for a group activity. Volunteers do not need previous teaching experience, but must participate in training, be at least 18 years of age, and provide $25 for a background check. Volunteers must commit at least three Saturdays. Visit www.laworks.com for more information.
  • IMPACTO is a year-long program that works to empower underserved youth in Boyle Heights. Volunteers participate in weekly planned activities with the youth and help them to complete projects, arts and crafts, and meal time transitions. The opportunity is open to volunteers aged 16 and older. Phone interviews are required along with an in-house background check. Orientation takes place on the first day of volunteering. Volunteers can choose their own schedule. Visit www.proyectopastoral.org/program_impacto.php for more information or e-mail impactovolunteer@gmail.com.
  • CoachArt volunteers assist in creating a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old to participate, must pass a background check at their own expense, attend training, and be able to communicate consistently through email or phone. Volunteers must provide at least 8 hours of direct service per year. E-mail volunteer@coachart.org or visit www.coachart.org for more information.
  • 826LA volunteers lead creative writing workshops and one-on-one tutoring and help students with writing projects. Volunteers must participate in a 2-hour training. Visit www.826la.org for more information.


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