Growing A Community Of Fluent Readers: Summer Fluency Pilot Program 2016
While the Deepalaya Community Library at Delhi’s Sheikh Sarai has grown significantly in membership in the last one year, it has not escaped us that reading fluency amongst many of our readers lags behind their peers from more privileged backgrounds. In June 2016, a team led by Michael Creighton conducted an assessment of nearly 100 children from the ages of 6-16. The assessment required children to read continuously for 1 minute from selected Hindi texts (suited to their age-group). The total number of words read and the number of errors were noted as well as reading behaviors such as whether students were observed correcting their own errors. This was the basis for evaluating fluency-levels. As computed by Creighton:
“Very few of our students (14, to be exact) are where they should be by accepted standards of reading fluency...What's worse, more than half the kids we assessed would be considered students with 'intensive' needs-what we call third tier students. Only 23 out of 95 would be in the group we'd call 'strategic', or second tier, meaning they'll be in trouble soon if they don't get help...With a broader definition of 'strategic', we'd have about 40 students in that group. These are students that will likely end up functionally literate, but will not likely learn to love reading, because it is just too hard to do it quickly. ”
The assessment led to the Summer Fluency Pilot Program, conducted from June 13th to 30th, 2016. The goal was to build fluency and enhance reading comprehension in Hindi. We chose Hindi for many reasons, but primarily because it mother tongue literacy is not just good in its own right, but it supports literacy in other languages as well. 21 children were selected to be part of the program. There was a call for 5-6 volunteers to conduct the sessions. It was going to be an uphill challenge. To quote Creighton:
“Most of our members can read, but there are many more who are just not reading enough to become fully literate. Our schools teach them to decode words and get by. But there is not enough emphasis on reading beyond decoding and learning specific information. In the long run, we need to change that. But how? This is uncharted territory. Let's chart a small piece of it!”
The three week program began in the peak of summer with just 4-5 adult volunteers. Shubhra Mathur took the lead in the morning and Shubha Bahl led in the afternoon. Others helped out as they were available: Madhu Grover, Mahima Kohli, Amit Rao, Shiven, and Pushpa. Several groups of Deepalaya teachers observed sessions as part of their professional development.
Four groups of 4-7 students came for an hour a day, every day. The idea was to give individual attention to each child, helping them understand their blocks & mistakes and overcoming them through repeated readings of different types of texts ranging from picture books to comics to longer & more complex books with fewer pictures. Every night students took home childrens’ magazines to read from for ‘homework.’
The image below gives an idea of how the program was structured. Everything was aimed at giving students a variety of experience actually reading extended amounts of text: partner reading; independent reading; repeated readings of the same text. Students read daily both from leveled readers and from books and magazines of their own choosing.
At the end of the 3 week program, a repeat test was carried out with the same text and guidelines as the pre-program assessment given a month earlier. A significant improvement was noticed, as evidenced by the following numbers:
Average correct words per minute went from 76 to 88.
Average accuracy scores went from 93 percent to 96 percent. This is bigger than it may look. On many assessments, 97 percent is the target. Accuracy below 95 percent suggests substantial impact on comprehension; 93 percent is really low. So we helped move students closer to where they need to be. This is significant, because it suggests our students did not get the message that speed is all that matters, something that can be a problem in programs like this.
The median reading rate (middle student) went from 82 to 95.
17 of 21 kids made gains in their reading rate. Five our our students were 4th standard students; 2 were in fifth; 5 were in sixth and the rest were seventh and above. Gains were highest among fourth standard students.
14 out of 21 students made gains of 6 or more words per minute.
12 students made gains of 15 or more words per minute (also, one made 11) .
7 students made gains of 20 or more words per minute (also, two made 19 and one made 18).
3 students lost ground by more than 6 words per minute on the post assessment. Though one must use caution(and other data) when using one-minute screeners like this to evaluate individual student progress, it was interesting to see that three of the four students who did not improve their rate on the post test did significantly improve their accuracy. And there will always be students who have bad (and good) testing days.
The gains were not only quantifiable but visible in other ways. It’s something we need to keep building on:
“Many of our readers have a new sense of themselves as confident, competent readers. We'll want to get these members in longer books to maintain and extend their gains. Others have made real gains, but will need continued support to grow...If I had to change one thing right now, it would be to add, 'We will read for longer times and we will read longer books' to our list goals. We really hit this hard in the second half of the program, and I’m hopeful we’ll see these members continue to read bigger books.”