Preventing the ‘summer slide’

WES wraps up successful summer literacy camp

Cullman City Schools students participate in the literacy camp at West Elementary School. The camp lasted four weeks and was designed to help young students reaffirm their reading skills during the summer. (Photo courtesy of Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman City School students received a reading boost this summer, as West Elementary School hosted its second annual literacy camp in an effort to prevent the “summer slide” of students forgetting some of what they’ve learned over the summer break. 
The camp is part of a statewide initiative to increase reading proficiency in elementary students. All K – 3rd grade students are eligible and receive an invitation from their school to attend. The goal of the camp is to provide additional practice in all areas of literacy. This year’s camp included 15 teachers, three instructional assistants and invited approximately 120 students. The camp lasted four weeks and included around 70 hours of literacy instruction. Students also participated in daily recess activities and were also provided with free breakfast and lunch. 
“As we all know, it’s easy for students to fall out of practice over the summer, so this camp provides them with an opportunity to continue to work on their reading skills with expertly trained teachers, all while having fun,” elementary curriculum coordinator Erica Rutherford said. “Our students had an excellent time this summer and our reading camp was a great success.” 
School data showed over 40% growth in second and third grade students’ reading fluency. Kindergarten and first grade students grew in their word reading ability by an average of 20%. Teachers used data from the end of the school year to determine students’ current reading ability and then designed phonics instruction to practice critical skills. This prescriptive teaching is based on the Science of Reading, a strategy in which teachers across the state are currently being trained. 
“This year we were excited to host a larger number of teachers and students, and we were still able to maintain small class sizes in order to provide teachers with a chance to work with students on their individualized needs,” Rutherford said. “We have seen the benefit of these instructional strategies during the school year and were happy to know they also were effective during summer instruction. Students participated in daily individualized phonics lessons as well as read-aloud exercises, vocabulary lessons, fluency practice and listening activities designed to increase phonemic awareness.” 
Rutherford noted the success of the camp was a team effort, and thanked Principal Jay Page, Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, reading coach Emily Hines and regional Alabama Reading Initiative staff for working tirelessly to make sure teachers and students had everything needed for success.