Reading on the Go! Volume 2: a handbook of Resources

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Reading on the Go!

Volume 2:

A Handbook of Resources

Prepared for the

National Center for Homeless Education

Patricia A. Popp, Ph.D.

The College of William and Mary

Spring 2007


This manuscript is the result of many collaborative efforts and the input of a wide range of individuals. Many thanks are extended to the staff in local programs, who opened their doors, hearts, and file cabinets to share their experiences in meeting the literacy needs of children in highly mobile settings. The time and insights provided by these committed educators were critical in shaping the content included in this document. Furthermore, special thanks are extended to Ms. Diana Bowman, director of the National Center for Homeless Education, and Dr. James Stronge, Heritage Professor at The College of William and Mary, for their assistance in conceptualizing this project, shaping its organization, and providing many thoughtful reviews and edits.

This document was produced by the National Center for Homeless Education under U.S. Department of Education contract ED-04-CO-0056-0001.

The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.



Preface iv

Chapter 1. Purpose and Process 1

Chapter 2. Identifying Students and Establishing Goals 4

Chapter 3. Selecting or Creating a Reading Program 14

Chapter 4. Assessment and Evaluation 22

Chapter 5. Promising Instructional Practices 37

Chapter 6. Administrative Considerations 53

Chapter 7. Resources to Get Started 71

Chapter 8. Designing and Implementing a Literacy Program –

A Checklist of Considerations 81

Chapter 9. Concluding Thoughts 91


Appendix A-1. Case studies of local sites visited App. 1

Appendix A-2. Sample forms shared by local sites App. 26

Appendix B-1. Summary of state coordinators’ focus

groups App. 33

Appendix B-2. Summary of NAEHCY conference focus

group App. 44

References and Additional Resources R-1


Table 1. Planning Options Based on Current Data 10

Table 2. Scientifically Based Research Checklist 16

Table 3. Potential Programs to Investigate 18

Table 4. Comparing and Contrasting Homework Help and Tutoring 67
Table 5. Funding Possibilities 71
Table 6. Sample Programs 74
Table 7. Sample Resources 76

Table 8. Books, Books, and More Books 78


Figure 1. Sample Logic Model for Program Planning 7

Figure 2. Monitoring Student Progress – Reading

Fluency 31

Figure 3. Wheels and Reading 46

Figure 4. The Story House 48

Sample Forms Included in the Body of the Text

Sample Form 1. Professional and Ethical Guidelines for

Outreach Workers 57

Sample Form 2. Communicating With Teachers and Parents 62

Sample Form 3. Parent Reading Tip Bookmark 65

J. K. Rowling’s sixth Harry Potter novel made its debut as I completed my visits to programs that provide literacy experiences to children experiencing homelessness and high mobility. I could not help but reflect on the stark contrast that exists between the lives of children in poverty and those in more affluent families as my husband and I made the trek with our daughter to our local bookstore for the “big event” on the eve of the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Our copy of the book had been ordered online months earlier. An announcement that the book could be ordered appeared in my e-mail one day. I merely clicked on the link, entered my credit card information and address, and within a few minutes could rest easy that the book would soon be on the way. The summer would include “snuggle time” with my youngest daughter as we took turns reading Harry’s new adventures to each other (something we’ve done since she was in kindergarten) and lively discussions about the new events in Harry’s life with our older daughters around the dinner table. Long before the book arrived on our doorstep, the girls had figured out how to share and maximize their opportunities to finish it as quickly as possible: “Denise reads most quickly so she gets it first, but Beth can borrow it if Denise is at work, and Mommy and Meredith get it whenever Mom says so.”

On the night of the party, the bookstore was crowded with children and adults, some dressed like Harry or Hermione, and pointed hats and capes abounded. The media reported many such parties around our community and throughout the country. Children curled up in corners, reading with flashlights under the covers, bleary-eyed from non-stop marathon reading sessions were the order of the day. As a teacher, such a reading frenzy during summer vacation was exciting and gratifying to me.

The students of the teachers I visited recently have had very different experiences. I received an e-mail on my personal computer; those children had no computers. I had a credit card that would be accepted online and the ability to pay the bill when it arrived; many of their families had challenging credit histories and were not able to spend $20 on a book when money for food and shelter were limited. I had an address that I could include with the book order months before it would be needed; many of these children did not know where they would be living a month later.

My own children have had a very different experience learning to read than the children seen daily by my teacher hosts. In our family, access to books was never a problem. In fact, my girls learned as toddlers that Mom might say no to a trip to the toy store, but a request to visit the bookstore would be harder to decline and usually resulted with some packages going home. Reading a story as part of the bedtime ritual is something my 20-year-old still recalls fondly. Some of my girls learned to read with such ease that it seemed effortless. Even my daughter who struggled in the primary grades received the support she needed with private assessments and a little extra attention from Mom. By middle school, her reading skills surpassed those of many of her peers and she was more likely to be corrected by a teacher for reading in class when she was not supposed to than for talking out of turn.

The parents of children in poverty and homelessness want the best for their children, but may lack the resources whether financial, emotional, or educational to provide the early literacy opportunities that are taken for granted in middle class communities. A book of your own, a place with light to read each night, a parent who can negotiate the education system to get help when it is needed is not a given among such children. Were these children at the Harry Potter parties? Did these children have access to a copy of any of the Harry Potter books? And ultimately, were these children capable of reading Harry?

While reading often appears in the headlines because of its importance as a critical predictor of success in adulthood, we must remember that reading also is a wonderful, joyful part of childhood. I hope that the information in this handbook provides new ideas and tools to ensure students who are highly mobile, living in poverty, and experiencing homelessness acquire the reading skills they need to succeed AND to enjoy the treasures and wonderment that comes from reading.
Patricia A. Popp, Ph.D.

The College of William and Mary

Chapter 1

Purpose and Process

This handbook is the second installment in a project supported by the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) to explore reading instruction for students experiencing high mobility as a result of high poverty. The initial document, Reading on the Go! Students Who Are Highly Mobile and Reading Instruction, reviewed the characteristics of highly mobile students and provided a literature review of reading instruction, with a focus on the research on reading and high poverty in an effort to help practitioners better understand the needs of highly mobile students and inform their selection and structure of programs by making research-based decisions.

This Handbook of Resources begins the discussion of implementation based on the literature reviewed in Volume 1 but was further shaped by the voice of practitioners captured through focus groups and site visits. Thus, the practices and materials presented here are based on the literature and input from teachers who work with students experiencing homelessness. The focus is on supplemental instruction and children experiencing homelessness in preschool and elementary grades (the emphasis being K-3 instruction), given the sites that were visited. While these interventions may apply to other highly mobile groups and may apply to in-class instruction, further exploration is needed to support their use with other groups.

Studies that address the literacy needs of highly mobile students are limited because it takes time before changes resulting from interventions are observed and because children who move frequently are among those represented by the asterisks in statistical tables of results that note the attrition rate. This project is intended to be an interim support that can assist today’s students and help set a research agenda by highlighting topics and issues for subsequent studies. The intended audience includes school-based and community-based staff and other individuals interested in developing and maintaining literacy programs for homeless and highly mobile students.

The information included in the handbook is based on several years of conference sessions, discussions with reading experts, an eye on the literature, and visits to programs on the “front line.” The handbook identifies instructional methods and resources used by educators who serve mobile students on a daily basis and those that have research support for students, in general, that also “make sense” in capturing progress and imparting knowledge quickly when there is little time to teach.
Data Collection

The information collected in this handbook was shaped by the voices of educators who work with children who move frequently. Specifically, focus groups were conducted with state coordinators for the education of homeless children and youth who were available for a conference call meeting during the summer of 2003 as well as attendees at the 2003 Conference of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) who volunteered to join a special session to discuss the issue of literacy. (Proceedings from these focus groups may be found in Appendices B-1 and B-2.)

During the spring and summer of 2005 several site visits to successful programs also were conducted. A nomination form requesting identification of programs that were improving the literacy skills of elementary school-aged children who were homeless or highly mobile was distributed to state coordinators for the education of homeless children and youth, migrant education coordinators, and institutions of higher education with programs that addressed literacy for this population. Four programs were nominated. Ultimately, three sites were visited based on scheduling availability.

Two of the programs involved supplemental after-school tutoring. The third program emphasized support for the literacy skills development of preschoolers. While not the primary focus for this project, the growing numbers of young children experiencing homelessness and the research-based practices being incorporated provided an opportunity to explore the needs of younger children as a preventive measure against later reading struggles. The sites included a preschool home-based literacy project on Long Island, New York, an after-school literacy project housed in a short-term domestic violence shelter in Austin, Texas, and an after-school tutorial program offered in a homeless shelter in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Appendix A-1 includes more details about the methodology and actual case studies of the three sites.) While anecdotes and quotes from these site visits have been included throughout the handbook, readers are encouraged to read Appendices A-1 and A-2 to reap the full benefit of these visits. These appendices contain many rich lessons learned by the teachers who opened their programs for visits and shared a wealth of insights.

Chapter 2

Identifying Students and Establishing Goals

Early Considerations
Before a program is selected and implemented with highly mobile students, care must be taken to clearly identify the students to be served, their needs, and the desired outcomes. Analysis of data to gain an accurate understanding of the students to be served is a critical early step and one that should be revisited throughout the endeavor. Starting during initial planning, community and school representatives who can access needed data and will be able to share the project’s needs and goals should be identified. With literacy being the target skill, it is imperative that community-initiated projects seek representation and support from the schools. Educators’ understanding of the dynamics of local mobility and homelessness can be enhanced by involving those community agencies that serve these children and their families.
Data-Driven Decision Making

Using data effectively involves not only data-based decisions and actions, but also using the relevant information to shape your message. Appropriate use of data is part of effective “selling” of a project. For example, funders are looking for projects that can effectively describe the current status of needs in a community and include mechanisms to document changes brought about by the project. Increasing awareness of needs and building consensus and support for a project requires effective packaging of the facts as part of your message. This can be considered during the initial data gathering stage.

Known as strategic communication, this process focuses on changing behaviors and realizing outcomes rather than simply providing general communication. It tells people where you are going and what you want to achieve. Accurate data help develop your rationale. Use of this kind of marketing approach among nonprofits and advocacy groups has been gaining more attention in recent years. The following organizations have resources that may be useful in developing strategic communications and accessing data at the state and national level.

  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation ( is responsible for KIDS COUNT, a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United Sates on indicators of well-being. The information is used by policymakers and citizens. KIDS COUNT “seeks to enrich local, state, and national discussions concerning ways to secure better futures for all children.”1

  • FoundationWorks ( is an alliance of communication experts. As described in the introduction to their Web site, FoundationWorks’ mission is “to accelerate social change by partnering with foundations and their grantees to ensure more effective use of philanthropic resources. We believe strategic communication can be the principal agent for achieving the next level of philanthropic effectiveness.”2

  • Corporation for National and Community Service ( has created a booklet to assist nonprofit organizations and volunteers groups in conducting media outreach.3

  • Voices for America’s Children ( is dedicated to enhancing the effectiveness of state and local child advocacy organizations. Their Translating Research Into Advocacy Project provides information, resources, and technical assistance on policy-relevant research, such as Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT.

  • W. K. Kellogg Foundation ( “is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to apply knowledge to solve the problems of people.”4 Among the resources available on their Web site are publications that describe program evaluation and the use of logic models in program planning and evaluation. The Logic Model Development Guide includes a discussion of how the logic model can assist in marketing programs and presenting programs to potential funders. The program logic model is a picture of how an organization does its work – the theory and assumptions underlying the program, which links outcomes with program activities and the theoretical assumptions of the program.5 The following logic model was created from a sample template found in the guide. It may be adapted as you begin to plan or continue to improve your program.

Figure 1

Sample Logic Model for Program Planning

Targeting Student Groups
Given the limitations of funding and resources, most programs must place parameters on which students can be served. So, how do you decide?

If the literacy project is to be shelter- or community center-based, the potential population is already limited. Longitudinal data that provides detailed demographics about the children to be served are needed, including:

  • How many children at any given time are on site?

  • What are the typical ages and grades served and what is the frequency of each?

  • How long are children in the program before they move again?

  • What is the range of duration?

  • Why do the children move and where do they go?

This is information the shelter or center can provide. Knowledge of children’s reading skills may be less accessible. Observational data from staff can be valuable in describing what is known about the children’s skill levels and literacy needs. Here are some additional questions to consider:

  • How do children relate school experiences? What information do they share? How many are positive and excited about school? How many are reluctant to talk about school? Are their discussions negative? Are there any quotes or stories that can be shared?

  • If homework is completed in the program, how many children are able to complete it independently or with minimal direction? How many children have homework that they do not seem capable of completing successfully?

  • Do children seek out books and reading opportunities?

  • If report card grades are available, how well are children in the program performing?
  • If state and local assessment data are available, how are the children in your program succeeding?

The last two questions underscore the need for collaboration with schools. Given appropriate permission to share information, school-generated data are more complete and will complement the observational and demographic information that the center can provide. If the project is initiated within a school or a school district, many of the same questions must be addressed, but additional considerations will arise. For example, mobility patterns should be analyzed in order to better understand the students and special learning needs.

  • What kind of mobility (e.g., military moves, moving from state-to-state following work, moving in and out with relatives) do we see?

  • Is mobility higher in certain grades or schools?

  • Do the students remain in (or return to) our school or school district?

Analyzing mobility patterns can help identify which grades and students should be considered when asking further questions.

  • How well are our mobile students doing on statewide assessments?

  • How are stable peers in the classroom performing on these assessments?

  • How is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) affected by students’ mobility?

  • Has the school district made a concerted effort to help students remain in their school of origin, especially if the school moves have occurred within the same school district?

In our current era of accountability, answers to such questions will be of great interest to leaders whose support can further the development of a new project. In addition, the anecdotal observations of teachers and other school staff, as well as families, provide further detail and understanding.

  • What do teachers report as challenges in their classrooms with students with high mobility?
  • How do the literacy skills of highly mobile and homeless children compare with those of their grade-level peers?

Knowledge of the incidence, needs, and special characteristics of the target population provides a basis for determining the priorities that will be accepted within the community and those that can be matched with funding sources and other school and community resources. The following table provides an illustration of how such planning may evolve in a shelter-based after-school program.

Table 1
Planning Options Based on Current Data

Age/ Grade

# served/ year

# served at one time

Literacy skills

(average scores/range) anecdotal observations/needs

What could we do?

How could we get it done?




Lack of exposure to books & activities

Set up preK reading corner
Organize library visits
Bring in volunteers to read with children

Book drives
Daycare vans for transportation
Existing community programs




Weak vocabulary

Low recognition of alphabet and letter sounds

PALS – 80 percent scored in lowest quartile

Build background knowledge
Play literacy games
Provide one-to-one drill with chart of progress

Consult K teachers for recommended activities
Employ reading consultant to train volunteers




Weak decoding

Limited sight vocabulary

Reinforce phonics instruction
Play vocabulary games

Consult school system teachers for supplemental activities




Weak decoding

Fluency problems (slow with multiple miscues)

Offer sequential multi-model decoding practice
Use repeated readings of stories; recorded books

Hire trained tutors to implement adopted program




Reading on early first-grade level

Oral comprehension is on grade level

Provide comprehensive tutoring to enhance school-based instruction

Consult special education program and/or Title I for approved/suggested programs

For all ages

At or above grade level

Consider: Will these children benefit from participation? What can we do to provide enrichment?

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