Proyecto LEE - Project Read

The ACIE Newsletter, March 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2

By Bonni Chan, Fifth Grade Teacher, with John Geise, Librarian,
Adams Spanish Immersion School, St. Paul, Minnesota



A sticky situation: Ever heard of a teacher who didn't like to read? Well, I may be the first. After having put off the reading and book reviews I volunteered to do (for pay) for our school's library several summers back, fall was practically upon us, and I had managed to read only two of the requested thirteen books. Not one of them had been reviewed. I had to do some quick thinking and decided that, since I was to be paid for reading these books at a handsome sum per book, I would seek out ex-fifth graders of mine (whom I knew would be quick readers and quality writers), then I would pay them to help me review these books.


Seven students and I met over at the local library one afternoon and began to swap books, silently reading round-robin style, then orally updating the reviews every few chapters.

Only a couple of reviews were completed that first day. I could see that at this rate we would not make as much progress with the task as needed, so I invited those student volunteers to read the books at home over the next week and told them that I would write the reviews with them the next time we got together.

This worked out great. Seven more reviews were finished by the end of the next week. Now there were only a few books left to review. The student readers continued with the cooperative effort and by the following week, all of the books had been reviewed.

I was so proud of the students and of their hard work. I was also somewhat amazed that they were so capable of writing such great reviews. They had actually enjoyed doing what I had found to be a very difficult thing to do. I paid them each a predetermined sum for their efforts, and all felt satisfied, a real win-win situation. After reveling in a sense of genuine accomplishment, it occurred to me that I would need to face Señor John Geise, our school librarian, with whom I had entered the contract the previous spring.

I sheepishly confessed that, although the books had been read and reviewed, the task had been done mostly by students. I awaited his reaction, knowing very well that this "sticky situation" might well result in my being out the personal cash I had recently invested. Instead he smiled and said that he thought involving students was a fantastic idea. This unplanned turn of events became the beginning of "Proyecto LEE."


Authors Bonni chan and John Geise and
four book reviewers show their Proyecto
LEE yellow stickers.


Proyecto LEE stands for "Leamos En Español" or "Project: Let's Read in Spanish." Although founded quite by accident, more than 80 student participants have reviewed some 600 Spanish chapter books during the last four summers for our immersion school's library. Each of these reviews appears on the library's computer along with the name of the student reviewer.

The program presently works like this. All students in the fifth and sixth grades receive a flyer during the last month of the school year. It explains and promotes the program and is used as an application. The flyer states that "selected students" will have the opportunity to evaluate books in Spanish from the school's library. Because the program meets only once a week during the summer, on the nine Tuesdays when the school's library is open, students are required to commit to a minimum of three or four consecutive meetings so that a strong foundation to the program can be established. The flyer also states that it is the parent's responsibility to provide transportation to and from the hour-and-a-half-long program. Upon receipt of numerous applications, we select all interested participants who are able to meet the minimum attendance requirement.


A Proyecto LEE Review Form.


After the application and selection process is completed, students meet the first week in the library where they are introduced to the chapter books that they will be reading. The meeting is conducted in Spanish. Some feel overwhelmed after seeing all the books; others seem excited.

The excitement really grows, however, once we tell the students that they will be paid for reading and reviewing the books. "What?" "You're kidding!" "You can't be serious," are among the common reactions. I reaffirm that each participant will be paid $4 in cash for every book fully read and carefully reviewed.

Participating students then select at least one book and take home an extra one or two, just in case the first one doesn't seem to work out. Next we distribute the Student Start Up Kit, which includes a personalized folder, a nice pencil with a good eraser, scratch paper for first drafts, and review sheets.

Together the students and I carefully go over the review sheets, which ask students to identify the book's name, author, and copyright date. It also asks that the reviewers estimate the reading level and interest level of the book. It invites the students to give the book a global rating such as "regular," "muy bueno," or "excelente," as well. Finally reviewers are asked to write a brief, yet complete summary of the book in Spanish. All of this is to be done at home and brought back to the next week's meeting.


A Dandelion-Yellow Review Sticker.


Each year we recruit several teachers and teacher aides to work with groups of four or five students. Together they discuss the types of books and what the students like and dislike about them. Each student is expected to summarize the book orally. Once the student has finished the oral review, the teacher has a clearer picture of what the book is about and has more success understanding the student's written review.

The reviews need to be done neatly and accurately before they are accepted as "complete." Students are allowed to read and review up to four books per week. They are then paid at the end of each session in cash. Each has his or her own money envelope, which is reused each week. The highlight of each session is certainly the cash received, but in addition to this, the students look proud each time they've successfully reviewed a book and can place the dandelion-yellow Proyecto LEE sticker on the inside cover of the reviewed book. This sticker displays the student's name, his or her grade level, and the year in which the book was reviewed.


During the first few years the students were paid through grant monies awarded to the school library. Once those funds were exhausted we approached our school's Parent Teacher Organization to request continued funding for the program.

The program's cost varies from year to year, depending mostly upon the total number of books reviewed. On average the cost has been approximately $1000 per year, which includes teacher salaries (about $22 per hour), book reviews, materials for the Student Start Up Kits, and a few snacks. No rich uncle has been needed“only supportive parents and staff.

We've ended each year with a trip to the local amusement park. Although students pay their own entrance fee, Proyecto LEE has always chipped in a little at the end to buy each student a well deserved Coke or some sticky cotton candy.


As the summer comes to a close, the library staff finishes up the on-going laborious task of putting all of the information from the sometimes hundreds of reviews into the computer. This information is vital, because it allows students to look up book summaries in seconds, and allows teachers to acquire a list of books with real student feedback for any given grade level. An informative book list is a real asset for our immersion students.

The summer's end is sometimes sad as the sixth graders realize that they will not be able to participate in the program again. The fifth graders turn into sixth graders, and many return the next summer to once again read and review new books. But what a joy it is for us to see the proud sixth graders shuffle through the library shelves pulling out books, "their books" for all of their friends to see. Dandelion-yellow stickers are everywhere!

We would encourage other immersion programs to adopt and adapt this "Best Practice" in their own immersion setting. What an excellent way of incorporating the following into your continuously improving immersion setting. This program:

  1. creates an environment for purposeful learning;
  2. provides students an opportunity to serve their immediate school community and simultaneously profit personally, financially, and academically;
  3. increases student motivation and commitment to reading during the summer break;
  4. encourages students to assume a role of greater responsibility/prestige (the role of "Book Reviewer") within their learning community;
  5. provides meaningful opportunities to grow their developing literacy skills in Spanish.
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