Summer Camp Designed to Improve Literacy


Two literacy camps this summer aren’t just helping school-aged children improve reading skills during the “summer slump;” they’re also helping teacher candidates learn how to plan lessons and manage a classroom.

Dalton State’s School of Education partnered with Dug Gap Elementary School and Eastside Elementary School in the Whitfield County School System to run two literacy camps for kindergarten through middle school. Each camp runs two weeks and is paid for by a state literacy grant.

Even though teacher candidates have several hours of classroom experience before graduation, the camp gives them a more authentic chance to plan and teach from the beginning, explained Dr. Lovey Mesco, assistant professor of education, who oversees the camps.

“During student teaching, they are in someone else’s classroom,” Mesco said. “With this camp, they design the entire experience, and I’m really impressed. Many tell me they feel like real teachers, and it’s because they are real teachers.”

“We ask ourselves, ‘How do we help these kids?’” said Becca Winkler, a senior in the education program at Dalton State. “We hope to increase reading fluency and eliminate any struggles with reading they might have. We’re hoping when school starts back, they won’t be behind. This is giving us real hands-on experience for when we graduate and have classrooms of our own.”

Each day centers around a book with a different theme, such as historical fiction or science fiction or diversity. Then all the day’s activities involve that book.

For example, one day was spent reading and doing activities relating to “Fireboat” by Maira Kalman. After reading the story, members of the Whitfield County Fire Department spoke with the children about being firefighters and all that is involved in their work.

It was a way to connect the book to real life and involve a little social studies into the curriculum.

Children also wrote letters to the firefighters and did other activities related to the book. The youngest children spent some time making shapes from dough while older children played a game with words used in the book.

“This has been a great experience,” said Jennifer Hurtado, a senior in the education program. “We’re not just sitting in a classroom. We’re actually helping kids read and experience literature.”

One book was about buying a horse. Hannah Nix, also a senior who is working with middle school-aged children, had them create advertisements and try to “sell” a horse as an activity.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “But it gave them an opportunity to practice some different skill sets in addition to those associated with reading. We had a lot of free reign with the curriculum. And we’ve learned to be flexible.”

Mesco says it’s important for Dalton State to be involved in the community, especially with the schools.

“The more we can work one on one with the schools in our area, the better our students will be prepared,” she said. “Plus we’re a part of the community. So we give back and we work in the community to make it a better place for all.”

Each student who attends the camps this summer will receive books. And each teacher candidate who helps with the camp receives a set of books to start their classroom libraries.