BY RAVEN N. CROMWELL
After a four-year hiatus, Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio brought back their summer reading camp in June of 2019. Summer Reading Camp was a three-week, half-day program, sponsored by Marietta College Education Department, designed to assist students in the development of improved reading abilities, oral and written communication skills, and positive attitudes toward reading. Children’s literature and hands-on experiences were the primary instructional tools and camp activities were based around the book The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. Camp was held on campus where students worked in small groups with undergraduate students and local teachers. Priority for camp was given to students who had been recommended for additional literacy instruction by their school.
Following our successful return, we decided to revamp our camp to make it even more appealing and helpful to our local families for 2020. We redesigned camp to be full-day in order to provide more reading instruction time and to make the schedule easier to manage for working families. We also expanded our focus to other content areas, renaming the program STREAM camp, which stands for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math. This new vision still included high interest books, activities, and reading instruction. However, students would also practice their reading skills and strategies in content-rich texts. Before we could implement STREAM camp, however, we were faced with the global pandemic.
This summer we once again had to place our in-person camp on hold due to the pandemic, and again provide Summer Reading Adventure Packs. Generous contributions from the local community have allowed us to provide 320 packs to local schools for 2021. Additionally, we are listing the selected books and accompanying activities on our website (mcstreamcamp.com) for parents and caregivers who did not receive a pack, but would like to provide this as an enrichment activity for their children. We also created a YouTube channel that features community members reading the books featured in the packs. It is our hope that the reading packs will inspire children to continue to read, explore, and create during the summer in order to be better prepared for their eventual return to the classroom.
“The thought of putting these activities together for students is amazing. This is allowing us as a college the opportunity to grow and reach out to the community. It is also helping students continue to grow and learn in a fun way over summer!”
—Hannah, a 2021 graduate, who is working on a pet-themed pack for grades K-1
“Did you know that there are robots all around and that you are using aspects of coding to complete everyday tasks? The fourth and fifth-grade students will build their own robot, practice simple coding through giving directions, and even develop their own code with Legos. Through the books and activities the students will get a behind-the-scenes look at the technology that makes up so much of our lives while they develop problem solving skills.”
—Elissa, a future graduate, who is working on a STEM-themed pack for grades 4-5
If you are interested in creating your own literacy packs, you should check out the wonderful resources provided by Reading Rockets. They have articles that include why these packs are important and how to create your own. They provide free, downloadable activities and list the companion books you can purchase on your own or check out from your local library. They even have a program called Start with a Book that allows you to explore titles and activities based around several high-interest, content-rich topics. This website also contains helpful hints and instructional videos for caregivers to nurture reading skills and reading motivation in children. We hope that in 2022 STREAM Camp will return to Marietta, improved by the lessons we learned during the pandemic.
Raven N. Cromwell works in the Education Department at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. Her research interests include diverse children’s literature and pre-service education. Raven is a member of CLA’s Ways and Means Committee.
From the 2020 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts: Moving From Small to Large Through Play and Imagination
By Kathryn Will, Meghan Goodwin, and Sophie Hendrix
The Notable Children’s Books in Language Arts Committee (NCBLA), reads, reviews, and discusses over 400 books of various genres written for K-8 children each year. These works of poetry and prose are analyzed using the charge of the committee that asks in making the selection of the top thirty texts the seven committee members consider:
1. Appealing format,
2. Enduring quality,
3. Exemplary quality for their genre, and
4. Meeting one or more of the following:
a. Use of language: play on words, word origins, history of language
b. Uniqueness in use of language or style
c. Invitation of child response or engagement
This post focuses on two of the texts from the 2020 Notables List that might be seen through the lens of a progression from small to large. Although The Magic of Letters (2019) and Small World (2019) are very different books, they can be used to invite readers to imagine, play, and wonder.
The Magic of Letters
Written by Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Penguin Random House, unpaged, ISBN 978-0823441594
Written by Ishta Mercurio
Illustrated by Jen Corace
Abrams Books for Young Readers, unpaged, ISBN 978-1419734076
Both of these books invite readers to engage in exploration and discussion through multiple reads due to their rich vocabulary and use of language. Teachers can easily deepen and extend the texts through a variety of activities.
Using the illustrative style of The Magic of Letters, children could repurpose magazines and catalogues to cut out letters and words as sources for creating new words and sentences. As they pore over the texts, they could look for familiar and known letters and words, providing opportunities for practice in letter and word recognition before assembling them in a collage. Children could use crayon resist to create magic letters of their very own, or even play roll and write to create sentences from familiar and new words. These activities reflect the rich and playful nature of the text.
Small World is a text that envelopes the reader in the world of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). The rich vocabulary begs teachers to consider connections to geometry, snow science, and roller coasters. With consideration of Nanda’s career as an astronaut, students might watch this video about women astronauts, or think about materials they might need for a trip to the moon. This book also holds opportunities for rich discussion with questions such as:
Kathryn Will is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at the University of Maine Farmington (@KWsLitCrew). She is passionate about sharing the power of children's literature with her students, including the two listed below who assisted in the creation of the teaching tips shared. She is a member of the 2019 Notables Committee, and will be chairing the committee in the upcoming year.
Meghan Goodwin, Preservice teacher, University of Maine Farmington (@Ms_G_Teaches)
Sophie Hendrix, Preservice teacher, University of Maine Farmington