Summer Reading Camps
Laramie County Library System - Youth and Outreach Services Division
Anais Scott, Manager email@example.com 307.773.7226
Laramie County Library System’s Summer Reading Camp programs were adapted from an idea developed by Annie Eastmond and Lora Koehler, Children’s Librarians at Salt Lake County Library (SLCL) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their program was called Camp Fun-to-Read! A Summer Reading Intensive for New Readers, and was designed to help 1st graders maintain their brand-new reading skills over the summer before entering 2nd grade. Annie and Lora gave a detailed presentation of their program at the Public Library Association’s biannual conference in Portland, Oregon, in March 2010.
The Youth and Outreach Services Division of the Laramie County Library System wanted to offer our first graders something similar to the SLCL program, but we also had a concern for kindergarten readiness in our community. We decided to offer the program at a couple of levels: for grades K-1 (non- or very early readers), and grades 1-2 (independent readers). We adapted the program to incorporate Kindergarten Readiness skills that would be part of our school district’s kindergarten assessments for five year olds, and offered that modified reading camp program to our younger readers.
Everything at Summer Reading Camp--stories, songs, games, activities--involves letters or reading, as do the crafts or other ‘hands-on’ activities. Crafts center on the books being read, such as making stick puppets of the characters. A selection of Easy Readers, early chapter books, and picture books is always on display and available for check-out, and the children are given time to browse through them during camp time and as they’re leaving.
- ran five consecutive days for one week each
- daily sessions are an hour and a half long
- we offered two sessions of each level through June and July
- children had to register in advance and plan to attend all five days
- we only had food on the last day, which is party day
- a general activity the children can work on as people arrive and settle down
- a group activity, usually based on a reading & writing activity completed the day before
- a reading and writing segment, including reading aloud one book and completing a writing activity
- an active game such as beach ball toss
- general storytime read aloud, songs, and craft
- a finishing up game, such as lining up alphabetically
- Nametags: the children pick their own name out of the group of nametags as they arrive.
- Activity: Make a mailbox (lunch bag decorated using markers and stickers); this can be worked on through the week if children are given new materials to add on subsequent days. (The next day we will read Max’s Words by Kate Banks, and the children will begin cutting up magazines to develop their word collections.)
- Reading/Writing: Read Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems; talk to group about different movement words (make list on the board: up, down, jump, spin, etc.); have children write a 3-item list of movement words, e.g. 1. Spin, 2. Down, 3. Jump. If they can’t write, have them use first letter or drawing of the movement. Keep lists for later. (The next day kids will read out these lists as “instructions” for a new dance.)
- Activity: Beach Ball Toss: get the group in a circle and toss a beach ball randomly to a child, saying a prompt, e.g. “Rhymes with blue.” Child responds and tosses ball back to you. The game has themes: today’s could be movement words to go with the previous activity; or “rhymes with,” “starts with,” “favorites,” etc.
- Story/Craft: Elmer the Patchwork Elephant by David McKee and patchwork elephant (elephant shape with different colored squares glued on; secure to a large craft stick to make a puppet). Have an elephant parade and talk about the story.
- Wrapping up: group lines themselves up alphabetically by first name; each has their mailbox and their list of movement words; they turn to the person behind them and put their list into their neighbor’s mailbox. Mailboxes stay in the library until the last day. Remind parents to have their children tell them the story of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant on the way home.
Some of the specific skills that were included in reading camp activities include:
- Paper bag Mailbox: asking the child to write their name or first initial [literacy skills] and draw a picture of themselves [motor skills – a basic level of ability for kindergarten is a circle with stick arms and legs and a face.]
- Beaded Keychain: ask the child to count 5 or 10 beads [math skills], to string them on a lace [motor skills], and to describe the color sequence [language skills] either by writing a list of color words, or by writing the first letter of the color words. (A list of the color words was on the board for the children to refer to.)
- Simon Says: playing Simon Says, the children jump, hop on one foot, etc. [motor skills], and respond to instructions like “behind,” “above,” “below,” etc. [language skills and spatial concepts]. They also have to be attentive to stay in the game.
- Craft projects: each day we read stories and created crafts to help the children retell the stories at home. Aside from developing vocabulary and narrative skills, children are using scissors [motor skills], coloring and designing with markers and other materials, and cooperating in sharing materials and helping to clean up.
- Word collection: Children work on their word collections from day 2 on. Collect old magazines—especially children’s magazines being discarded—and encourage children to look for words they can eventually put together to make a story with. Many will go for pictures, which is fine, but remind them they’ll want to have a variety of words collected as well, so they can talk about the pictures.
Parent Involvement and Education
An important final component is to send home a note to parents explaining the skills their children are demonstrating in their activities. The parent can then be aware of what’s important to work on with the child and how to help keep skills up once reading camp is over. Some simple recommended activities for parents to do with their children are:
- Count everything: ask your child to count apples and cans of soup as you shop; count time or people or planes overhead as you wait in line; count the geese in the park or the number of blue cars you pass on the road.
- Read everything: point out words on signs, read instructions and captions out loud; encourage your child to help you cook or bake, and read the instructions together [cooking is also very good for strengthening math skills].
- Play word games like I Spy: as you talk with your child point out the names, colors, shapes of things. “I Spy with my little eye, something that is a red octagon.” It’s a Stop sign. This helps your child build vocabulary, which is key to sounding out unknown words while reading. (It’s much easier to sound out a word if you know that the word exists in the first place.)
- Come to the library to read, join us for programs, and talk to the library staff. We’re all more than happy to recommend books and talk about early literacy and school readiness skills.
Planning and Development
Go to the PLA 2010 website, http://www.placonference.org/session_handouts.cfm, enter the program name “Camp Fun-to-Read” in the Session Title search box, and you’ll link to the documents that were presented at PLA 2010. This was our jumping-off point. The documents give ideas for activities, books, and games, as well as a structure for the program and examples of introductory letters and other materials for parents.
We found that, with the Salt Lake County Library program as an example, we were able to structure our own program around our specific goals for our community. Get a good outline of basic skills that are expected at different grade levels and modify your activities and reading accordingly. Most importantly, keep it lively and fun, so the reading and writing the children do doesn’t feel like work.
We publicized this program along with all our other summer reading events, in a summer reading calendar (showing only June, July, and August events), and separately on half-sheet handouts that we gave to people as they signed up for summer reading. The handouts were especially useful because we could target kids of the appropriate age and there wasn’t a lot to read through to find out what the program was. They were very popular, and we ended up adding another one in response to demand late in July.
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