Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Guest Post by Rhonda McDonald

The “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” project was made possible with a proposal known as the George H. Irby, Sr. Incentive Grant of $500.00, submitted to the Virginia Association of Federal Education Programs.    “….these funds must be used to support the academic achievement of students receiving Title 1 services and/or to enhance the involvement of their parents/families in the academic process.”  

My proposal involved parents and students recording video readings at home to increase time spent reading together, improve fluency and expression. Parent participation was a critical piece of the puzzle for motivating reluctant readers. I had observed the series of books of the same name as the project—collections of two- to four-page stories, by Mary Ann Hoberman—used in choral reading at reading conferences, and thought they would be an effective teaching tool. They are written in a humorous, rhyming script format for a pair of readers, and cover the genres of short stories, fairy tales, Mother Goose, scary tales, and fables. 


The grant made it possible to purchase three video Flip cameras, three flexible Gorilla tripods, fifteen hardcover books, three rechargeable battery packs, a camera recharging unit, DVDs, DVD cases and plastic backpacks. I purchased two to three copies of five titles of books. The federally funded Title 1 program receives funds for Parent Involvement. With these funds, I purchased durable, plastic pocket folders and additional backpacks.


We began the program in January of each school year. A letter to parents explaining the project was inserted in the clear, front pocket of the folder. An agreement for parent and student to discuss and sign with rules for care of the camera while in their possession and tips for filming were in the inside pocket. Rules included no eating or drinking while using the camera. The camera was not to be used for any other type of recording or connected to any other computer. The students were not allowed to take the camera out of the backpack until they were at home.  In the back, clear pocket was a progress chart to keep track of participation.   

The backpack and one of the books were sent home with each student. The student was to take about a week to read the book with their parent, grandparent or other family member. Then they were to select their favorite four stories to practice for recording.  Once the progress chart was completed with these steps and the agreement had been signed by the parent, the book bag, book, and chart were returned to school.  

Our Title 1 group talked about and practiced operating the Flip camera. We discussed finding a quiet, well-lit place in the home to record. Then the student was given a Flip camera on a tripod to take home for two nights for recording the practiced stories. As the cameras were returned to school, I transferred the recorded stories into each student’s computer file and erased the Flip camera. The camera was recharged and ready to go home with another student. The practice of rotating the three cameras did not present a problem, because usually not more than three students were ready to film on a particular night. As their computer files grew with video clips, the students were able to watch the clips and critique each other.  As they say, “a picture says a thousand words.”  I think the opportunity for the students to hear themselves reading and to hear peers also motivated them to improve. I would recommend backing up the files onto another location for safekeeping.


At the end of the school year, the students typed a Table of Contents to place inside the cover of their own DVD.  On the front, I took a picture of each child holding his or her favorite book. They were very proud of their DVD produced with assistance from our Technology Teacher.  Comments from the Parent Survey that was sent home were favorable.


Title 1 students are selected based on a rubric with several pieces of evaluative data. Those with the greatest academic needs who are “at risk,” are eligible for the year-long program. Ten third grade Title 1 students participated in the 2011-2012 group. All of these students improved   their confidence, expression, and fluency with oral reading. They all passed their Virginia English Standards of Learning Test at the end of the school year. One student had a perfect score and three received a Pass Advanced Score. This was quite an achievement considering that some of these students started two years below their appropriate reading level. The average gain in Fountas & Pinnell Reading Levels was 4.3 reading levels.

The 2012-2013 group of six second graders and three third-grade Title 1 students have shown great improvements also. At this writing, I do not have end-of-the-year third-grade testing data to share. All of the second-grade students are reading on their appropriate grade level.


One of the challenges that I did not anticipate were homes where the parents were reluctant to fully participate. In those cases, I encouraged the students to invite different family members to read with them. We had recordings with sisters, brothers, and grandparents as well as moms and dads. The project grew as we invited personnel at school to take up the slack and read with the students. Readers that participated included the librarian, guidance counselor, classroom teachers, art and music teachers, the principal, and our technology teacher. Students also had the opportunity to invite a few of their peers from their homeroom. The project became a real team effort to help each student experience success. 

At first, I thought that the students should read a new selection each time they recorded. But in the course of the project, they discovered favorite stories. Each time they recorded those stories, they became increasingly confident with the script and could shine in the expressive delivery.  Some of the typically shy students became quite the dramatic actors and actresses.  The transformation was amazing to observe.


For the 2012-2013 school year, I decided to expand the program to include Title 1 second-grade students as well as third. We invited some of the veteran students that are now in fourth grade to come record with the younger students. The fourth-grade students were proud to be the “experts.”  

I was able to purchase one additional Flip camera and tripod this year, as well as five books.

The idea for the program has been implemented with another Title 1 teacher in our county this year. She had the opportunity last year to record with some of my students and viewed first hand the value of the shared readings. I have shared the program with other teachers at the Roanoke Valley Reading Council’s Fall Conference and the 2013 Virginia State Reading Conference. The audience was eager to learn more and asked many questions. One teacher suggested adapting the program with other available equipment.


I would encourage anyone to implement this motivating project. There may be other types of technology that would do the same job as the Flip cameras. I chose this avenue because it was easy to operate and not too expensive for a piece of equipment to send home. If you should have questions, I would be glad to share my experience.  HAVE FUN READING!!  

- Rhonda McDonald


Rhonda McDonald is a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia. She can be reached at rhondakmcdonald2013@gmail.com.

One way this project can be adapted is to select a wide variety of reading materials. Books with dialogue work especially well for this purpose, including scripts, and fairy tales. Check out the series highlights of our SuperScripts and Story World series below for an example of books that have the potential to work well with this activity.