Class act: Covina-Valley USD Reading Club spells success
On most days Luisa Diaz, parent coordinator at the Covina-Valley Unified School District’s Rowland Avenue Elementary School for more than six years, is greeted by cheers from children, parents and younger siblings who are eager for her to open the doors of the Library Media Center. They can’t wait to get into Rowland’s Morning Reading Club, an innovative parent partnership that provides extra academic time for students.
According to the school, Diaz is the driving force behind the Morning Reading Club, which is open to students for 30 minutes before each school day. The club provides students with a safe environment that allows them time to practice their reading, take quizzes, and earn prizes along the way. \
When the doors open, parents and children quickly set out colored book baskets that match up with the color of the level of the books inside. This helps children quickly find a book at their reading level and get to their favorite spot to read or take a quiz. Younger students take quizzes alongside their parents on the library computers, while those in grades 2-5 take their quizzes independently.
Parent volunteers have many opportunities to get involved with the Morning Reading Club, depending on their comfort level and the time they have available. They can assist students in selecting a book, supervise children on computers, issue tickets when children pass quizzes, cash in tickets for prizes, check books in and out, clean tables or chairs or ensure that the baskets are replenished and ready to go for the next day. The fact that the obligation takes just 30 minutes right before school makes it easy for busy parents to participate.
The club has had a tremendous impact on the lives of the entire school community, according to Rowland Principal Judy Gonzales: “Parents love coming in with their children because they get to sit down and enjoy a couple of precious moments with their children, while they discover the joy of reading. It has been instrumental in helping us raise the reading levels of our students.”
It also earned the program a CSBA Golden Bell Award in the category of Parental/Community Involvement for the 2011-12 school year. The Reading Club’s positive effect on student achievement is borne out in the data: Students read an average of 34 books each and the number scoring “Advanced” on quizzes increased 14 percent, while the number scoring “Proficient” increased 12 percent. From the program’s inception in 2006, the school’s Academic Performance Index increased from 769 to 869 for a total gain of 100 points.
Rewards and prizes are a big part of the success. For example, on Millionaire Mondays students put their hand in a jar and pull out library money that can be used for fun prizes. Students receive an extra ticket for a chance to win one of two bikes each month if they score 100 percent on a reading quiz. New members to the prestigious 250,000, 500,000, 750,000 and million-word clubs are recognized and added to a “Wall of Fame.” Students also work hard together to earn additional points to dunk the principal in a water tank at the end of the year. Last year, students easily achieved the schoolwide reading goal, making for a very wet principal.
Rowland’s Morning Reading Club can be easily replicated with the help of a core set of volunteers who firmly believe in the club’s mission of providing additional time for children to practice their reading to become lifelong learners. All that’s needed is a quiet environment where children and parents can come together to read, a variety of books available, small motivational rewards and a variety of options for parents to participate.
Diaz would love to see the program expand to other schools, and she plans to continue to be involved at Rowland. “I love volunteering every morning because it makes me feel good,” says Diaz. “I love to see the excitement and smiles on the faces of the children when they pass a quiz.”