FALKNER – Kindergarten through third grade students at Falkner Elementary School are spending the summer having fun while improving critical reading skills during the school’s Summer Reading Camp. The camp was made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Education.

FES Principal Angela Harris wrote the grant for the camp and the school was awarded it at the end of the school year. The three-year grant is approximately $45,000 a year and pays for the teachers’ salaries, transportation to and from the Ripley Library, professional development and resources for the camp.

“It has been a great opportunity for our students,” said Harris. “We wanted to offer this camp in the summer so our kids are ready for the third grade reading test. They have to pass the test with a 3 to pass the third grade. We saw the camp as an opportunity to offer some extra practice to make sure our kids are ready and to offer something fun in the summer. The camp offers learning through play and games and going to the library and checking out a book. Students have a reading log and they are encouraged to read at home. A big desire is that they have a love for learning because it is fun and they may see the fun in it.”

During the camp, teachers are able to screen each student and see where they are in their reading level and then pull them to offer intervention and enrichment. The teachers pinpoint where weaknesses and strengths may be and work on those specific skills with a small group of students.

 Each grade level has one-on-one time with teachers, literacy games that they play, and they rotate through activity centers. “The kids are playing so many games that they don’t even realize they are learning. It is a fun, hands-on, interactive opportunity. All of the games are geared toward phonics, comprehension and fluency,” continued Harris. As part of the grant, the school tracks the data on phonics, fluency and comprehension and turns it into the MDE to show that the students are growing.

At camp, students receive a snack, recess and participate in many daily activities including art and reader’s theatre. On Mondays, they visit the Ripley Library and listen to a read aloud story and check out library books. All the students now have library cards, too.

As part of their art projects, students are writing and illustrating their own books on the topic: ‘What I want to be when I grow up.’ They have also painted letters on stepping stones and made an alphabet, hop scotch pad for the playground.

“The kids picked out the letters and what they wanted to paint on it, and they did a really good job,” said Harris. “They had fun with it. It has been an awesome opportunity. The kids have loved it. Some of the parents have said they thought their kids would not want to come, or they would be bored with it, but they are playing games and interacting with each other and they are learning at the same time.”

The camp started on June 6 and continues every Monday - Thursday until July 18. About 25 - 30 students attend each day from 9 a.m. - noon. Harris said they had room for 48 students but were not able to fill every spot because they got the grant late in the school year. Next year they hope to be at capacity.  

“I hope where we leave off in the summer, with the individual things the teachers are doing in the camp, that we can start there in the school year and the kids do not miss a beat. It is a great opportunity for our community. It gives the kids something to do in the summer and it helps us make sure our students are where they need to be when they enter third grade,” concluded Harris.

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