A group of teachers at Rollins Place Elementary School are working to make summer reading fun for their students.

Zachary educators Laurie Condon, Kristy Gilpin, Lee Goebel, Stacey Hodges, Brandie McNabb and April Smith have been examining research over the summer, specifically that of Richard Allington, an American scholar, researcher and professor of education at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, that shows there is an achievement gap that occurs during the summer months for students.

“We noticed there’s a difference in students when they leave our classrooms in the spring and when they return to us in the fall in terms of what they’re capable of doing,” Gilpin said.

According to the research, the teachers say that one of the main ways to close this achievement gap is by reading books over the summer. To combat the issue, they began an initiative last summer to encourage Rollins students to read more books.

Principal Jennifer Marangos said the effort put forth by this group of teachers is amazing.

“Students, parents and teachers have been meeting once a week, engaging in fun activities and events, read-alongs, making snacks and more centered around reading books,” Marangos said.

One of the reading events, Fishing for Good Books, was funded through the Gates Foundation and has been a great success, Gilpin said. Another activity encouraged the students to read more by listing fun directives such as: Choose a book that teaches you something, choose a book with a character on the front, find a book with a character that has a surprised look or find a book that tells a little bit about the author.

Other activities have prompted students to discuss what they’ve read with each other and participate in Rollins Place’s Accelerated Reader program.

“We’ve had to get a little creative in finding funding so that we could get more books into the hands of our students,” Gilpin said. “We’ve even written grants and raised money through our summer Scholastic book fair in order to purchase hundreds of new books.”

The initiative included inviting students to join the summer reading program as opposed to demanding it, which in turn presented students with the opportunity to check out numerous books on their individual reading level, as well as grade levels.

“We’re hoping to invite even more students to participate in the future,” Gilpin said.