BES summer reading camp preps kids for fall

Struggling readers are getting a head start with more polished and prepared reading skills at Bartlett Elementary School. The four-week “Read to be Ready” summer camp is designed for students who will enter grades 1-3 in August, and teachers say they are having a ball.

“They feed off each other,” said third-grade teacher Tara White, one of the program’s counselors. “When one has success, the others want to do something too.”

The small groups of children are reading, talking about each story and what it means to them, tapping their imaginations to write about the topic, and doing related activities to keep them engaged and enjoying the process.

They learn to complete the sentence, “I wonder about …” for each story’s art, format and other elements of the story. They also get to take home their book at the end of the camp.

“Our only requirement is to read the book again,” White said.

She is seeing more confidence in the students who participate as they increase their reading skills. Any extra help this summer is vital for a student who is struggling to master reading, and they can have a better school year this fall.

“A lot of times they may not even be able to sound out the word,” White said about some children’s starting points.

The program encourages them to stretch their reading skills a little with its visual stimulation, physical activities, creative thinking, crafts and gentle guidance. To make the reading more of a fun challenge rather than a tough activity they dread, the children get to go on related adventures with their teachers.

For one week’s theme about animals, they went to the Memphis Zoo and conducted a scavenger hunt. The New Ballet Ensemble came out to showcase a theme about rhythm and teach dance moves. For last week’s theme on outer space, the children wrote about their own imagined galactic adventures. This week they are putting on a small play, “The Day the Crayons Quit.”

The teacher finds out what matters to each student and helps to relate the material to him or her. White said one student of hers brightens up anytime she mentions Batman, so she challenges him to think about what Batman might do in the story they are reading. She loved seeing the gleam in his eyes when it dawned on him, “I can really write about that?”

White said, “When they relate those words to something they’ve read before, it’s just heaven.”

The rewarding work brings back the joy of teaching when students begin to show signs that they believe in themselves and can succeed, she said.

“That kind of gives me excitement for the fall, knowing that some won’t be struggling readers,” she said.

She added, “If you don’t do anything else for the summer, read something. And learn those math facts!”

White said it doesn’t matter if the children are reading books, children’s magazines, recipes, signs or the channel guide on the TV, as long as they are reading.

The summer reading program is free to participating students and lasts from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. each weekday. Breakfast and lunch are included.

Teachers trained in May to prepare for the program, White said. Ellendale Elementary School also conducted a pilot program last year. See more details online at