Learning never stops: West Elementary hosts summer reading camp

School might be out for summer, but the learning never really stops for Cullman City Schools students. (Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – West Elementary School has spent recent weeks hosting its three-week summer reading camp, offering kindergarten to third-grade students a chance to refine their reading and writing skills while they prepare for the 2023-2024 school year.

Around 100 students have participated in the camp, arriving on campus at 7:45 a.m. and dismissing at 2 p.m. While there, Cullman teachers provide intensive reading intervention instruction for the bulk of the day. Then the last few hours are spent in math intervention and incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects with writing activities. The program is designed to help students performing below grade level in reading as identified during in-school standards and testing.

“The benefits of hosting summer reading camp are to continue the forward progress already established in remediating reading deficiencies to prepare students for the next grade level, provide more intensive instruction to remediate weaknesses identified through ACAP, and an added bonus is that it reduces the summer slide,” Lindsay Harris, ARI reading specialist at West Elementary, said. “During summer camp, teachers are able to devote a little more time to allow campers to explore STEM activities.”

Though the summer camp is designed to equip students to succeed at the next grade level, there’s no reason it can’t also be a whole lot of fun, too.

“In an effort to make camp more engaging, we have invited guests to come speak to our students each week. To kick off our summer camp, we had Miss Leeds Area (2023)Emma Wright, who will be competing in Miss Alabama this month, come to share the book she recently wrote,” Harris said. “She encouraged our students to read, and talked about the doors that they could open through a book. We also had the Cullman Power Board come to educate our campers on the importance of electricity and safety around downed power lines. Finally, we had local author Caris Snider come to present her new picture book to our campers. She explained her journey as an author, and encouraged students to become authors themselves.”

The camp has even had student-athletes from Cullman High School help out, with members of the tennis team, CHS cheerleaders and dance team helping welcome students in the morning.

“As the campers are pulling up, it is all they can do to keep from jumping out of their cars to run through the spirit line. Many, many mornings campers jump out of their vehicles shouting about how excited they are to be there,” Harris said. “Campers have seemed excited to be at camp each morning, and are eager to participate.”