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Thorndike Press Helps McCollum High School Create a Culture of Reading with Youth Large Print Books

New “Cowboys Read!” Large Print Program Removes Barriers to Reading, Creating More Confident Future-Ready Learners 

At San Antonio’s McCollum High School  (MHS), youth large print books from Thorndike Press are spurring students’ love of reading. The schoolwide “Cowboys  Read!” large print book share program has built a unique culture of learning that has given students more confidence  and motivation to read. Research shows that students in grades 3–12 who read large print books developed stronger  reading skills, felt more comfortable reading and adopted new, positive reading mindsets.  

MHS is located in San Antonio, TX and is part of the Harlandale Independent School District. The school serves roughly  1,400 students of whom 97.9% are Hispanic.  

Cowboys Read! was created after school librarian, Terrie Sharp recognized emerging bilingual students weren’t checking out books from the library. Many of the school’s English language learners (ELLs) would retake their accountability tests up until their senior year. These tests require students to master English reading comprehension to receive a passing score. Although the district had invested in bilingual books and worked to boost reading proficiency in other programs, students just didn’t seem motivated to read. “Many [students] could successfully participate in their communities without having to learn how to read English very well,” said Sharp. “But by avoiding reading, students were not setting themselves up for academic success.”

In a school where 92% of students are considered economically disadvantaged, when Sharp asked students why they  avoided reading, their response surprised her. “They didn’t like the idea of taking out library books and owing fines,” she  said. “It wasn’t about them not wanting to read it; they were telling me that they didn’t want the financial responsibility  of possibly losing material.” 

Cowboys Read! gives students, teachers and staff access to large print books that are placed in five easy-to-find stations  around campus. Readers engage with their books by scanning a QR code to access virtual activities, or by joining  monthly “Snack and Chat” discussions. 

The program provides increased access to books outside the library and eliminates checkout stress or financial  consequences. “Those who do start liking the books take care of them and bring them back, or they share them with their friends,” Sharp said. “You just have to let the books go and be free. What’s important is to first get books in kids’  hands.”  

To capture and keep students’ interest, Sharp restocks the stations each month with new youth large print titles. She  works with Thorndike Press to ensure she selects a range of titles that appeal to various interests. “I knew that old,  donated books wouldn’t capture students’ interest,” she explained. “I wanted new titles. When I looked into ordering  new books, I noticed that Thorndike had new titles in large print under the same cover.” 

Thorndike Press youth large print books feature not only a larger font size, but also expanded space between words,  high-contrast ink, and increased line spacing, making them approachable for reluctant readers. As Sharp put it,  “Students have said to me, ‘I like these books, they’re easy to read.’’ 

In fact, according to a recent nationwide study conducted by Project Tomorrow® on behalf of Thorndike Press, 69% of  striving readers said they liked reading large print text more than any other class books during the school year. At one  middle school, reading large print books boosted students’ Lexile reading levels two to three times the average  recommended growth. No wonder that 95% of teachers said they’re likely to use large print books in the upcoming  school year.  

Sharp said that Cowboys Read! is helping students connect not just with books, but with each other. “Students are more  willing to talk about a book than they are about themselves. It’s a really good icebreaker. They make new friends just by  being in our lunch group for the day.” 

The culture of reading also builds empathy. At one of Sharp’s Snack and Chats, she met a senior girl. “She told me she  hadn’t read a whole book since she was in middle school. She picked up Neal Shusterman’s Roxy. She said, ‘I wanted to  read this because my brother is addicted to ADHD medication. And this made me understand how he became addicted  and why it’s so difficult for him.’ She had felt abandoned by her brother, but after reading that book decided to try her  best to get in contact with him again. Reading is not just about school. It’s about life.”  

Read the entire success story about McCollum High School’s Cowboys Read! large print program.  For more information on Thorndike Press Youth Large Print, visit its web page.

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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Equity & Access - Issue 28

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