Reading camp dives into books

MARIETTA – With most of the area’s schools officially on summer break, camp season is rapidly taking over many students’ summer schedules.

Marietta College is home to several summer programs on its campus and is currently hosting the Marietta Morning Rotary’s Reading Camp. The camp is designed to teach reading skills and encourage reading among elementary school children.

Children from Washington and Wood counties participate in the camp, which is sponsored by the Marietta Morning Rotary Club. The club funds activities for the program and assists with scholarships for many of the children in attendance.

“It’s still reading camp, so they have to learn something, but it’s important to make it fun,” said Marietta College senior Maddie Griffiths, a teacher at the camp.

The children engage in lessons that focus on their independent reading, oral reading, writing and word study each day. With 64 campers total, the children are split up by grade level in six classrooms, starting with the youngest transitioning into kindergarten to the oldest going into fifth grade.

This year’s overall theme for the camp is “Dive into Reading,” which features each classroom with the title of “Puddles,” “Ponds,” “Pools,” “Creeks,” “Swamps,” “Rivers” or “Oceans.”

The Swamp group consists of eight children who will begin second grade in the fall. Because of their group theme, they read mostly about animals that inhabit swamps, bayous or similar environments.

Jeremy Heiss, 7, of Marietta said he enjoys reading about facts. He is particularly fascinated in snakes and the colorful patterns on their scales, or what he refers to as their “invisible skin.”

Taylor Starkey, 7, of Waterford said she loves learning about “creatures” of the swamp, especially alligators.

While there are activities about alligators and other creatures, every lesson ties back to reading.

“Why would they call it Reading Camp if it didn’t have any reading?” Starkey said.

Carole Hancock, associate professor of education at Marietta College, and Randy Tornes, a kindergarten teacher at Waterford Elementary, are co-directors of the camp. Hancock explained how campers participate in a diagnostic pre-testing about a month before the camp begins to determine their reading levels and specific skills.

“For example, we might have a child who reads well but has weak comprehension of the material,” she said.

The pre-test highlights these details so that a teacher can work with an individual child’s needs and help to develop and improve these skills. The test includes an interest and attitude survey, which determines what a child will read and his or her activities at the camp.

The camp is part of the curriculum for the Diagnosis and Corrections of Reading Difficulties course at Marietta College. Students who take the class are required to participate as teachers in the camp during its three-week duration in the summer.

At the end of camp, the children are sent home with $50 worth of books. These books are chosen by the teachers according to each child’s pre-testing results.

“It wouldn’t be fair to send them home with books that they couldn’t read,” Griffiths said. “We test them so that we know they have books at their own levels and that they find interesting.”