SFUSD students, families hit the books together in summer reading program

students in a classroom
Parents and students participate in a Springboard workshop at Visitatcion Valley Elementary School.

By SFUSD Communications Office

Visitacion Valley Elementary School incoming first grader Assassin is only required to read for 15 minutes at home every day, but she usually spends much more time in her own personal library at night.

“She’s pointing out words because she actually knows what they are, and she’s excited to know,” Assassin’s mother Ashley said. “She has a library at home and she just picks up books all the time.”

Ashley credits her daughter’s surge in reading with a summer program new to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) that coaches teachers and trains family members on ways to cultivate reading habits at home. The program, Springboard Collaborative, was first offered at Bret Harte Elementary School last summer as a pilot, and this summer expanded to include nearly 800 kindergarten through fourth grade students at eight SFUSD schools.

On a recent Wednesday morning in July, in a classroom at Visitacion Valley Elementary -- one of around a half-dozen classrooms filled with students and their families, and teachers, that day -- Ashley and Assassin sat at a table with Ashley’s sister (who usually attends class with Assassin while Ashley is at work) to participate in the fifth workshop of the summer, “Re-Reading for Fluency.”

The workshop calls on family members who attend class with their children to check in with teachers about their reading progress at home, learn tips for best reading practices, and reflect on what has already been taught and how well it is being implemented at home.

student, aunt and mom sit at a table in a classroom
Assassin, a student at Visitatcion Valley Elementary School, sits at a table with her mother and aunt.

There are worksheets for family members to keep track of how much they read with their student, and incentives for achieving milestones, like receiving tablets and books. Family training workshops each week average more than 80 percent attendance, and include more than just parents -- siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even great-grandparents have participated.

The summer program has a multi-pronged approach to closing the literacy gap: it develops children to become readers, it developers parents to become teachers and it develops teachers to become reading instructors.

“Like many other school districts across the nation, SFUSD has ​long ​faced ​a ​persistent ​gap ​in ​student ​performance ​between demographic ​subgroups, and eliminating that gap is a top priority for the district,” said Michael Reimer, an administrator on special assignment in the SFUSD Division of Curriculum & Instruction, who has served as the liaison between Springboard and SFUSD for the five-week summer program this year.

Founded in Philadelphia in 2011, nonprofit Springboard expanded to the Bay Area in 2015. Last summer, Springboard served a total of 3,798 students across the U.S.

“Springboard offers families a double dose of support, both at home and in the classroom. The students who participated in Springboard last summer replaced an average of a three-month reading loss with a more than three-month reading gain,” said Jeff Feinman, executive director of Springboard.

On the recent morning while Ashley and her daughter Assassin practiced reading together in a classroom, Visitacion Valley Elementary School Principal April Scott put up the last of the designs she created to reflect the hard work and commitment the students and their families made to building their literacy skills this summer. Those images included a giant purple octopus, drawings of students diving into summer learning, and poster-sized images of VVES students reading and writing as well as their families participating in workshop.

“Learning doesn’t stop just because it’s summer,” Principal Scott said with a smile. “We really want to encourage families to support reading habits at home, even during summer recess.”