Newsela's Summer Reading Challenge Kicks Off

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School's out, but nonfiction literacy is in. Education technology startup Newsela keeps students' reading skills sharp with leveled news articles tailored to every ability.

Newsela’s goal this summer is to foster a news-reading habit. Starting this summer, news will be a part of every child’s life.

No matter how hard teachers work and how much their students learn during the school year, summer vacation can unravel some of that progress. Students risk losing the skills they’ve built up in the previous year and arriving back in the fall less prepared to pick up where they left off. It's a phenomenon that has vexed educators for more than a century, with researchers studying the effects of summer loss since 1906. The findings are concerning: when it comes to reading, low-income students in particular are at risk of losing more than two months’ worth of achievement. It builds over time and by sixth grade, those who lose reading skills over the summer can end up an average of two years behind their peers.

This summer is going to be different.

Starting the week of June 16, students across the country are taking on Newsela’s Summer Reading Challenge, a free program that rewards students in grades 3-12 for reading about the world around them. Students earn points for the number of words they read and receive quirky, colorful badges for completing a range of mini-challenges based on article assignments. Every article in Newsela is published at five different versions of varying text complexity, so students of all abilities can engage in the same real-world content. The challenge ends on Aug. 18, just in time for students to head back to class with their reading skills sharpened, and ready to tackle the next grade's assignments.

Additionally, Newsela's current events-oriented content means students won’t just be honing their literacy skills, they’ll be building background knowledge on a wide range of relevant topics. The age-old back-to-school essay assignment, "What I did over my summer vacation," will yield some surprisingly well-informed responses this fall:

I learned how drone technology is being used for everything from selling houses to tracking tornadoes.

I learned about new research on concussions and how athletes are demanding better medical care.

I learned about continuing conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and the Central African Republic.

“Getting kids to read over the summer is a pain,” said Newsela Founder and CEO Matthew Gross. “What if kids were self-motivated to read, and not just stories of wizards and heartbreak, but about the world around them? Newsela’s goal this summer is to foster a news-reading habit. Starting this summer, news will be a part of every child’s life.”

For a student to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge, all that is required is a free Newsela account, which can be created by a parent or teacher.

Answers to questions about the Summer Reading Challenge can be found on the Summer Reading FAQ.

ABOUT NEWSELA: Reading company Newsela was founded by a former education official whose own child's reading comprehension struggles inspired him to create a new approach to building literacy and a love of reading. Newsela publishes news articles, each at five levels of difficulty, to help students improve their own literacy. From current events on topics ranging from asteroids to zebras, teachers of ELA, science, social studies, arts and physical education can find a wealth of nonfiction content that students will find relatable, relevant and fascinating.

Newsela offers both a free and paid version. The free product allows students to take learning into their own hands by reading any article on the site, at any level and track their own comprehension and progress using Common Core-aligned quizzes. Newsela’s technology nudges students to challenge themselves, automatically suggesting a higher reading level if the student aces quizzes, and suggesting a lower reading level if the student’s scores need improvement.

Newsela PRO takes Newsela to a whole new level with features that help teachers track individual and class-wide progress. PRO is geared for the educator who wants to assign specific articles, annotate articles, run progress reports, track progress against Common Core standards, and reinforce comprehension with new writing tools.

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Stephanie Vatz
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