Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery


One of the biggest challenges that educators face today is what has become known as “summer reading setback.” Many students who have at or above grade level reading skills during the months when school is in session fall behind over the summer due to a lack of continued reading practice. For students of poverty in particular, many of whom do not have access to reading materials over the summer months, “summer reading setback” has become a serious problem as they continue to fall behind summer after summer. Although “summer reading setback” has become a reality for far too many elementary school students, numerous schools and communities are working hard to combat this negative trend by implementing motivational reading programs to encourage students to maintain and even improve their reading skills over the summer. One such program is Summer EXCEL, a six week summer school for students at Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

One of the goals of Shepherd Community Center is to break the cycle of poverty through education; keeping students engaged in educational activities over the summer is integral to ensure they do not lose the progress they have made during the school year and to continue reading over the summer. Clearly, reading encompasses a wide variety of skills, so the program decided to focus on improving students’ listening comprehension abilities in particular. Therefore, the lessons were written with that skill in mind. Because the theme for Summer EXCEL 2013 was “Down on the Farm,” all books and activities were centered on this topic. In order to design a comprehensive reading unit that would motivate students in grades one through six, various instructional strategies were researched and utilized throughout the program.

This paper will explain the importance of Shepherd Community Center’s Summer EXCEL Program to provide a motivational, educational experience for high-poverty elementary school students who face the prospects of summer reading loss. Additionally, the process of writing the reading unit will be discussed, along with quantitative data revealing the overall effectiveness of the unit and methods of improvement. Also included are pretest and posttest assessment results, which show that strategies utilized in the unit helped students learn and improve their listening comprehension abilities.


Honors Capstone Project completed in 2014 for Olivet Nazarene University.