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Bookworms curriculum introduced into Cecil County Public Schools

UD professor Sharon Walpole and her colleague, Michael McKenna* developed Bookworms in response to the increased reading and writing expectations in the Common Core State Standards.

Bookworms is a free, online, open-source database of reading lesson plans and resources for elementary school teachers to use as their reading and literacy curriculum.

The curriculum uses fiction and non-fiction books instead of materials materials created by commercial publishers. Real books are used to help students stretch their skills and build vocabulary on a daily basis by incorporating shared reading, interactive read-aloud or writing, and small-group instruction in 45-minute blocks.

UD partners with CCPS

In August 2016, Maryland’s Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS) implemented Bookworms in all 17 elementary schools. This represents the largest implementation of Bookworms in a mid-Atlantic district, and the first professional development partnership between CCPS and UD.

CCPS Associate Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson, a graduate of UD’s doctoral program in educational leadership, initiated the partnership to accelerate his district’s literacy achievement. Lawson was familiar with Walpole’s work and had heard from a number of colleagues, “if you’re interested in moving kids and improving achievement, Bookworms is the program.”

UD’s Professional Development Center for Educators (PDCE) assisted with the implementation, offering professional development to teachers and workshops for school administrators to answer questions and develop solutions related to Bookworms instruction, assessment, and leadership.

PDCE set out four goals for the year:

  1. provide Bookworms training to CCPS elementary staff
  2. support classroom implementation through bi-monthly coaching
  3. examine data with teachers to identify what is working and what adjustments are needed
  4. help CCPS develop capacity for program sustainability.

Charts of CCPS scores demonstrating impact of Bookworms
CCPS MAP scores demonstrate the impact of Bookworms

CCPS and UD partners agreed that shifting to a new district-wide literacy curriculum is a big change for educators, especially those accustomed to making independent decisions about texts or activities.

But Lawson felt there was a huge advantage to having a common language related to literacy. “Bookworms is helping CCPS establish consistency, fostering a professional learning community on a system scale.”

Student literacy skills show improvement

Positive results are already emerging in CCPS. According to fourth grade teacher Laura Valz, “for the first time in my 10 years of teaching, students are actually disappointed when we get to the end of the section they are supposed to read for that day. They beg me to keep going!”

The students’ academic improvement has been noteworthy, compared to the prior year’s data.

CCPS’ mid-year Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test data measuring student growth in reading from fall to winter, indicated that all 17 elementary schools outperformed last year’s data in grades 3, 4 and 5. Said Lawson, “we’re seeing students grow at a fantastic rate…I can’t say enough from a school system leader’s perspective about the impact [Bookworms] has had for us.”



*Michael McKenna, the Thomas J. Jewel Professor of Reading at the University of Virginia, passed away on December 14, 2016, following a brief and unexpected illness. An accomplished scholar, his work was creative and innovative. Mike will be greatly missed by those who knew him both personally and professionally.