Friday, November 27, 2020
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Voxitatis to pilot reading challenge this summer


The Voxitatis Research Foundation (this website) will conduct an initial pilot test of a Web-based application that will promote reading over the summer months.

One of the biggest differences between high-income and low-income students during the summer, when school is not in session, is that low-income students tend to experience declines in reading achievement while middle- and high-income students show improvement in reading.

In the May 2005 edition of the Journal of Research in Reading, John Schacter from the Milken Family Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., and Booil Jo from Stanford University reported on an experiment they conducted with economically disadvantaged students just after they had completed first grade. They sent one group of these students to a seven-week reading day camp over the summer, while the control group did not attend the camp.

Their results showed significant differences (full report) between the reading achievement of the two groups at several points during the summer and when school started.

But the Voxitatis summer reading challenge will do more than encourage students to read; it will be a contest with prizes for top-reading classrooms. The ranking will be determined by a formula, which we’re testing, that incorporates the number of hours of reading done by students in a classroom and how deeply they understood the books they read.

The formula comes from a study by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert from Vanderbilt University, who produced a report entitled “Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading” for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Their report concludes:

Students’ reading abilities are improved by writing about texts they have read; by receiving explicit instruction in spelling, in writing sentences, in writing paragraphs, in text structure, and in the basic processes of composition; and by increasing how much and how frequently they write. Our evidence shows that these writing activities improved students’ comprehension of text over and above the improvements gained from traditional reading activities such as reading text, reading and rereading text, reading and discussing text, and receiving explicit reading instruction.

Seeking volunteer teachers

We are looking for a few teachers, particularly those in public schools in grades 2 through 5, to volunteer their classes to take part in our reading challenge pilot this summer. We believe research for years has proven that combining writing with reading will improve students’ reading comprehension.

The prizes for the pilot test will include $150 in classroom cash for first place, $100 for second place, and $50 for third place, provided winning teachers are signed up on Adopt-A-Classroom.

We wouldn’t be asking for volunteers if we didn’t believe this would seriously help your students over the summer. The experience is a little like social networking, except with books and conversations about stuff students write about the books they read, rather than about what type of food people are eating for lunch. Like Facebook, the system will always be free; unlike Facebook, our policies prohibit display advertising on any pages we control. For more information, please see our privacy policy.

Basically, I make all the money I need in my day job, and I’m not looking to sell anything to schools. This system and the foundation are my way of giving to public schools in return for what they have given me. I’m also grateful to our directors, who truly care about public education in the US.

More details will be provided to teachers who sign up. The deadline is Memorial Day. A series of three conference calls will take place in early June to introduce teachers to the system. For more information, please contact me by email at

Again, thank you for what you do.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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