Earlier this year, in conjunction with the launch of the statewide Read to be Ready Campaign, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation gave a $1 million gift to the department to award for summer reading programs over the next three years. This spring, the department received over two hundred proposals and selected 12 summer programs from across the state to receive funding. In this series, you will learn about the work being done by the grant recipients to help rising first, second, and third grade students develop a love for reading over the summer months.
By Delaney Brown, Communications Intern
East Elementary School’s “Read to be Ready” camp in Humboldt County hosts about 22 students each day. The camp leaders have developed an environment where students can comfortably master essential literacy skills. Confidence and independence in literacy are two central goals at the East Elementary Read to be Ready camp, and those goals are reflected in the activities chosen to accompany each day’s reading.
The camp is organized in a way that students become familiar with the subject matter before they are introduced to the reading material that will soon be added to their home libraries. For example, in preparation for the current story series about animals, a petting zoo came to East Elementary! The students loved meeting the animals and were excited to read their new books about their new friends—llamas, rabbits, and goats. Each student has his or her own reading log to track progress and celebrate success. The reading log also serves as a channel for students to review the books they read, which further builds their reading confidence.
The campers participated in an interactive read-along about nature with their teacher, and were then excited to experience it themselves. Students designed and decorated their own set of binoculars and took a trip to the edge of the playground to observe the plants and animals. They were given “scientist’s notebooks” to record their observations about the surroundings. “We are scientists!” exclaimed one excited rising first grader, after writing about a caterpillar she observed wriggling on a leaf. Student response to the day’s reading material is encouraged through individual reading journals, which provide a safe place to express their thoughts, feelings, and responses to their own books. The teachers also help foster creativity by prompting students to write and illustrate stories about the characters they encounter.
The students play fun and enriching games intermittently throughout the day to practice sight-reading skills and become more familiar with vocabulary words. One game the students are particularly excited about involves water balloons and spelling. The students line up, and one by one are given the opportunity to spell a sight word. If the student is correct, he or she is able to throw the water balloon at a classmate—quite the incentive to master their spelling list!
Another favorite is a game of catch with a beach ball covered in sight words. The student is thrown the beach ball, and whichever word their thumb lands on must then be read aloud. The game was such a hit that students chose to play it on the playground during their recess time. Beach balls with sight words written in permanent marker have been sent home with each student, and parents have been given instructions on how to play. Students also have been provided with shower curtains where they can create their own games using sight and vocabulary words. For example, sight-word hopscotch and vocabulary-word twister are both games that were able to be played at camp and then taken home to be played with family.
The teachers and camp organizers make an effort to communicate well with the parents and family members of each student to make sure the skills being learned are reinforced at home. The effects of this effort are the most notable at the end of each Friday when the parents are invited to come and see what the students have learned during the week. The students are able to exhibit what they have learned and then are presented with awards to recognize the week’s successes. Each student leaves for the weekend with stronger literacy skills, an increased love for reading, and a brand new hardback book.