News from the Field: Tap In Leadership Academy

Tap In Leadership Academy, in Champaign, Illinois, operates a summer enrichment program for middle school and high school scholars. The program combats the decline in reading skills that often occurs in the summer when many students read little or not at all.

Girls Reading
Scholar Brianna and Tap In Leader Jazzlyn read together in the park.

We do more than just to get our scholars reading. Our summer program is organized around Tap In’s four pillars: leadership, literacy, cultural awareness, and service learning. Tap In’s curriculum is based on research and best practices. Young scholars enjoy researching various cultures and learning through interactive activities such as cooking and visual and performing arts. We offer a culturally integrated literacy curriculum, which helps keep reading fun and interesting.

Through the Coretta Scott King Book Donation Grant, we received a copy of every book nominated for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards in 2012. The awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. Many of our scholars are African American, so this is a great opportunity for them to read books focusing on their history and culture that they otherwise may not be exposed to in school. Because these books are available to all students, they introduce them to various cultures and worldviews that will broaden their horizons.

Tap In Library
Tap In received over 50 books from the Coretta Scot King Book Award Grant.

Scholars read books aloud to others, focusing on fluency and inflection while reading. We also make the program fun by using technology and social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Kik Messenger. For example, students work one-on-one with a literacy tutor to complete book review blog posts where they practice summarizing what they read in just a few sentences by picking out the main points of the story.

When a scholar completes a book, he or she also writes a review that will be placed in the back of the book. The review includes a concise summary of the book, the book’s reading level, information on who would enjoy this book, and an explanation of how highly they recommend it. During the school year, scholars in our afterschool enrichment program also have access to these books, and the reviews help scholars select books that fit their reading level and interests.

Glen Oak kabuki theater
Scholar Jackson reads aloud to Tap In Leader Zach in order to improve his fluency.

Tap In’s culturally integrated literacy curriculum has been a successful component of our program for 4 years now. Students are assessed at the beginning, middle, and end of the summer program. In the past, all of our students showed improvement in reading comprehension and fluency by the end of the summer. Overall, fall grade-level assessments have shown that our scholars showed minimal or no summer reading loss compared to their peers who did not participate in the program. We have also learned from parent evaluations that students who participate in our summer program show an interest in reading books, magazines, and online articles.

Summer 2014 is expected to be the best summer to date. With 50 enrolled scholars, a new program site at Edison Middle School, and hundreds more books added to our library, we anticipate Tap In scholars will return to their respective schools in the fall reading at or above the levels of their peers. Visit Tap In Leadership Academy’s websiteto learn more about our program.

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