Drop everything and read at Rifle Middle School

Drop everything and read at Rifle Middle School
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When the Rifle Middle School administration learned through testing data that reading was a challenge for some of its students, a strategic effort was launched school-wide to change that. One aspect of this varied and evolving approach is called DEAR, or Drop Everything And Read.

For about 30 minutes every Thursday morning, students and staff stop what they’re doing and pick up a book of their choice to read during that dedicated time. Starting in August and still going strong, the activity has become something that both Principal Jennifer Nipper and Reading Specialist Amanda Stockton look forward to.

Nipper says one thing that contributes to kids becoming proficient readers is to dedicate more time to actually reading, which is where DEAR comes in. Some students enjoy reading and will read during every spare minute of their school day, she says, although not every kid enjoys reading. 

“We are trying to match our young readers with subject matter that interests them and makes reading more enjoyable,” says Nipper. “We believe that ensuring that kids can read and can understand what they read are the most essential and practical lifelong skills we can develop in them,” says Rifle Middle School Principal Jennifer Nipper. “The last few years have obviously disrupted learning for many of our kids and we need to make sure we are not allowing kids to slip through the cracks when it comes to being able to read because reading to understand contributes to their success in every content area.”

As Reading Specialist, Stockton has been instrumental in bringing Nipper’s vision to life. “This is something Principal Nipper really wanted to implement, and she and I had many conversations about it,” says Stockton. “We saw this as an opportunity to work on choice reading, which research shows students enjoy more than having a book selected for them. What's neat is that this is the first year I've seen every single kid with a book.”

Stockton says that, first and foremost, she looks at the data and determines which kids need more support so that they can be placed into an intervention group. Students are taught strategies and work to build a foundation that maybe they hadn’t formed yet. 

“We're working on those skills so that when they leave RMS, they're more than ready for RHS,” says Stockton. “We also think about what we can do throughout the whole building to support our kids in reading. And so, we're working on a building-wide reading goal that we're setting this year.”

The reading goal, Stockton says, is to implement reading strategies no matter what is being taught. Whether it be math or science, she wants to pull in that reading aspect and make sure all students reach the standard literacy goals at the same level. She says all of the literacy teachers have done a phenomenal job of getting kids into the library, and that Librarian Gigi Jagger keeps a great selection so that every student can find a book that interests them.

“We are committed to helping kids enjoy reading and realize that RMS is a reading school, so when you come here, we're gonna read,” says Stockton. “By the time our sixth graders are eighth graders, they're going to have read a number of books and tried a number of things that hopefully will benefit them and make them become lifelong readers,” says Stockton.

“Each Thursday morning when I'm getting ready for school at home and remember that it's DEAR day, I get so excited,” says Nipper. “It's a gift to have 20 minutes to read! I spend my reading time in a different classroom each week so the kids know that I am also dropping everything in order to read.”

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