Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth Currin


This action research study examined the impact of a summer literacy program on summer reading setback. Gaining Ground is a summer intervention program designed primarily for economically disadvantaged students in Grades K–5. By granting access to self-selected books and implementing project-based curriculum, Gaining Ground aims to improve reading proficiency during the summer break. Faucet theory illuminated the challenge of reaching and maintaining proficiency over break, and constructivism and self-determination theory framed the program’s efforts to resolve this problem.

As the curriculum director, I used mixed methods to assess Gaining Ground’s impact. Quantitative methods revealed maintenance, improvement, or decline in student participants’ reading proficiency as evident in their spring and fall test scores. Qualitative methods yielded additional insight through interviews with area teachers who facilitate Gaining Ground summer programming.

Overall findings indicate Gaining Ground positively influences the reading proficiency of low-SES students, consistent with the organizational mission to narrow the educational opportunity gap. The teachers’ perspectives contextualized the quantitative results by revealing several themes: increased student autonomy; accessible opportunities; enhanced literacy skills; affirmation of family, culture, and community; and overall teacher satisfaction with the program. These insights can lead to additional program improvement.


© 2023, Tiffany Gayle Robles