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Innovative Program Keeping Student Minds Sharp During Summer

During benchmark testing in the 2016-2017 school year, Esther Jackson Elementary discovered that students reading at or above grade level had fallen from 60% to 38% between the end of one school year and the beginning of another. Further investigation into the summer slide phenomenon found that many of their students had decreased access to summer learning opportunities. After creating a plan to combat this summer slide, Esther Jackson received a grant from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) to start Project SOAR.

Project SOAR provides a lending library, 11 volunteer teachers to lead weekly book clubs, free books and backpacks, and parent meetings to residents of the River Crossing Apartment complex, which houses approximately 130 Esther Jackson Elementary students. This eight-week program teaches children about reading resources, providing opportunities for them to become more confident readers. While the students are being read to, or reading to themselves or each other, their parents have access to a volunteer English tutor, for those who speak English as a second language.

This summer’s book club attendance has remained steady, with 25-30 students diving into reading each week. The lending library has picture books, chapter books, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and the students break into groups, each guided by a teacher, depending on their subject matter inclination.

“The GOSA grant we received has really allowed us to think big and create a long-term strategy in supporting our readers out in their community,” said Nicolle Trow, Curriculum Support Teacher at Esther Jackson. “Our attendance numbers and the commitment of our teachers has been nothing short of amazing!”

New principal Nikol Boyd attended a recent meeting to meet students, parents, and teachers. “I’m the nicest kid in school,” one enthusiastic attendee proudly introduced himself.