Research
Throughout the early grades, schools should promote independent reading outside school by such means as daily at-home reading assignments and expectations, encouraging parent involvement, and by working with community groups, including public librarians, who share this goal (Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children: Executive Summary, Committee on Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, 1998.)


Promoting and encouraging independent reading outside school and involving parents in their children's reading behaviors are the foundation components of the California Reads program. The program also includes strategies for building reading-based partnerships with community organizations and businesses (including local libraries). Through the use of a school-based read-a-thon, California Reads facilitates the school in becoming the center of an extended community of readers and build a culture of literacy.


Throughout the early grades, time and materials should be provided to support daily independent reading of texts selected to be of particular interest for the individual student, and beneath the individual student's frustration level, in order to consolidate the student's capacity for independent reading. (Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children: Executive Summary, Committee on Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, 1998.)


In the California Reads read-a-thon, students are in control of their own reading. They select books that they want to read (enabling them to focus on subjects they are interested in), at a reading level that they are comfortable with, to be read in a place and time of their own choosing. They even decide whether or not they want to participate in the read-a-thon at all (although if realistic goals are set, and with encouragement from parents and school staff, and with other students, teachers, and the principal acting as role models, the majority of students will participate).


Parental involvement in reading dramatically increases children's scores on reading comprehension (Reading Literacy in the U.S., National Center for Education Statistics, 1996).


Parent involvement in their child's reading is a key component of California Reads, which provides a framework that shows parents steps they can take to increase literacy behaviors in the home. Ideas are included for involving parents with limited reading skills. An additional "Shared Activities for Parents and Children" section of the program manual (in both English and Spanish) can be sent home to parents to describe literacy behaviors that they can easily incorporate into their family's daily life. The program also supports the use of School-Home Links as an important parent-child activity.


Students who reported watching at least four hours of television daily displayed lower average reading scores than their peers who watched less television each day. (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1994 Reading Assessment).


California Reads provides a take-home letter (in English and Spanish), a TV time chart to increase parental awareness of how much of their child's time is spent in front of the television, and activities that give parents tools and strategies on how to use television as a learning tool and how to cut down the amount of time that their children spend in front of the television.


Above all other things, read, read, and reread (National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996).


California Reads gives students the motivation and incentives to read for fun, thereby practicing their reading, developing their reading fluency, and increasing their exposure to a variety of stories and subjects. California Reads provides a structure in which students's reading accomplishments can be publicly recognized and praised. In a typical California Reads school, children who earn their gold medals will have read 2400 pages during the read-a-thon (but schools can modify this amount based on numbers will motivate, and not intimidate, their students).


References
Arnold, C. (1997). Read With Me: A Guide for Student Volunteers Starting Early Childhood Literacy Programs. Washington, D.C.: National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education.

Cairney, T.H., and Munsie, L. (1995). Beyond Tokenism: Parents as Partners in Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Chen, M. (1994). The Smart Parent's Guide to KIDS' TV. San Francisco: KQED Books.

Davis, D., and Lewis, J. P. (1997). Tips for Parents About Reading: Information and Ideas for Helping Children Through Grade Eight Succeed with Reading. Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory's Comprehensive Center.

Jobe, Ron and Dayton-Sakari, Mary (1999). Reluctant Readers. York, ME: Stenhouse.

Samway, K.D., Whang, G. and Pippitt, Mary (1995). Buddy Reading: Cross-Age Tutoring in a Multicultural School. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Snow, C.E., Bums, M.S., and Griffin, Peg, Eds. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Taylor, D., Ed., (1997). Many Families, Many Literacies: An International Declaration of Principles. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Turner, Julianne and Paris, Scott (1998). "How Literacy Tasks Influence Children's Motivation for Literacy" in Every Child A Reader, Companion Readings. Washington, D.C.: Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under-Secretary Planning and Evaluation Services (1998). "READING FACT SHEETS: Where American Children Stand in Reading Nationally and Internationally" in America Reads: Building Literacy Through Community Partnerships. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under-Secretary Planning and Evaluation Service (1997). "Evidence that Tutoring Works" in America Reads: Building Literacy Through Community Partnerships. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (1996). America Reads Challenge. Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Education (1996). America Reads Challenge READ*WRITE*NOW: Activities for Reading and Writing Fun. Washington, D.C.: Blue Sky Press.

Vopat, James (1998). More Than Bake Sales. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Voss, M. M. (1996). Hidden Literacies: Children Learning at Home and at School. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.