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Reading camp attracts students

by Merrie Leininger

Winnie-the-Pooh, book reports, Boggle, scavenger hunts and S’mores: it’s not camp in the traditional sense, but the students in the Douglas County School District’s elementary reading camp seemed to be having fun.

For two weeks, while blue track is on vacation, about 30 students came to the inaugural reading camp at Minden Elementary School. Friday was the last day of the camp. The school district plans to offer reading camp during off-track for those kids who want a little extra help.

District coordinator of curriculum Cris Etchegoyhen organized the event with four teachers who signed up to lead the program during their month off.

She said the district invited 50 students and provided the camp for free with the help of a grant. The district also provided bus transportation to and from the camp.

Cheryl Winter, Ann Hughes and Christine Jezek, all from Jacks Valley Elementary School, and Judy Hatch from MES taught the 3rd through 6th graders high-frequency words, spelling techniques, test-taking techniques and how to enjoy reading.

n Teachers. “After the first couple of days, I heard comments like, ‘The day flies by so fast,’ and ‘That’s fun, can we do it again?'” Cheryl Winter said. “I love when they are reading alone and I hear them giggling, because I know they get it. We (teachers) talked among ourselves and we said if all they did is picked up one book, then that’s good because at home, they wouldn’t have done that.”

She said working with smaller-than-usual groups has been beneficial for both the teachers and the students because they get more individualized attention.

“Realizing how many times they see those high-frequency words when they are reading made them realize how important it is to learn them,” she said.

Thursday and Friday more fun events were planned as the camp wound down. Students traveled around the school in groups on a word scavenger hunt, looking for high-frequency words such as “and,” “in” and “it,” and compound words such as “homework,” “backyard” and “Sunday” on bulletin boards.

The group that found the most words in the least amount of time won a special treat at snack time. On Friday, S’mores were served at snack time in the tradition of camps everywhere.

n Learning and fun. Some of the students said the camp was more fun than school.

“We get to play games like Scrabble and we get to read and we get treats if we get the most points,” said Ricky Jas, 10, a 4th grader at C.C. Meneley Elementary School.

“I like reading more than I did,” said Kim Sands, 10, a 5th grader at JVES.

Marie Wilson, 10, a 4th grader at JVES, also said the camp helped her.

“I think I am getting a lot better in reading. (I’m not sad it’s over) because I’m coming back next time,” she said.

Teacher Judy Hatch, who had been reading Winnie-the-Pooh stories to her group, had the youngest children at camp and said she saw big changes in her group.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvements in reading. They are more fluent and enthusiastic. It is important for them to get on the right track (while they haven’t) struggled as long as the older students,” she said.

“It’s fun. I have learned how to read better. I like spending time with my friends,” said Trevor Nenzel, 8, a 3rd grade student at JVES, who said “Trucks and Cars” was the best book he read all week.

Willy Bautista, 8, a 3rd grader at MES, said his mom wanted him to go to the camp so he can learn to speak and read English better.

“When someone is talking to my mom, I can help her. It helped me to come here. You learn lots of things and you learn to read lots of books,” he said.