If you notice the young adult section of Ann Arbor area libraries are a bit more crowded this week, it may be because of a new found passion in reading was ignited at the free English Language Arts Camp for middle school students. More than 70 students wrapped up Literary Camp Friday at Pioneer High School by sharing with their parents and other adults highlights of what they read and learned during the two-week session.
Samir is one of the students who attended the camp and enjoyed the combination of getting to play some fun games outside, and getting the chance to do some independent reading of books he got to choose. He also shared about the 21st century style of book report students got to give, complete with the opportunity to add some snap-chat type filters. “We would be told to do a video, by reading a book and then telling what happened in the book.” During the rest of his summer vacation Samir plans on mostly reading books and writing stories.
Tappan Social Studies teacher Emily Zheutlin was one of the camp teachers. She was drawn to working at the camp because throughout the year she sees how vital reading is for students to have success in social studies. “I’ve seen a lot of kids that who just need a little bit of boost of confidence, just to be more confident in their reading, their writing, being confident in front of a group of people and I thought that this camp provided a really excellent opportunity for that,” she said.
While she believes the entire camp was beneficial to students, it was the book buffet that she thinks was the real highlight. Students were able to select from a wide variety of books focused on different topics and individuals to take read in the camp and take home to continue their reading. Zheutlin said the kids were excited about receiving the books. “I saw the kids reading the back of the books and you could just kind of see when they felt like they connected to it and then they grabbed it and went and were diving into the books all week long,” she said.
Reading of course was a primary focus of the literary camp, but the students gained a wide variety of other important skills in a fun environment. Students had the opportunity to play outdoor games, do a variety of short writing blocks, and work on social skills in addition to having independent reading time.
Tappan ELA teacher Shannon Epps says getting ready for the last day event where students shared with family members and other adults gave students important life skills that will benefit them for years to come. “We did a lot of practice, we did note taking with it, we did a flip grid so they were able to practice, they also had a partner they could practice with, so for some of them I think it was really, really good,” Epps said. “We went through like speaking things we need to do, talking about eye contact, about projecting your voice. I mean these are skills that our boys and girls are going to be able to use all year long, and through their school, high school, wherever.”
Probably the most important skill students took away from the camp was finding the joy of reading a book. Epps said this camp stayed away from the classics in favor of some currently popular books, such as “The Hate You Give,” which students can relate to the characters and subject matter. The goal being to ignite a spark in students that reading can be fun and enjoyable. “At this point I just think that it’s great that we just caught some of those kids, and if we catch you with one book, then it’s going to spread like wildfire and you’re going to find other books that you like in that genre or by that author.”
A second middle school ELA camp is underway through August 3rd. For both camps initial priority was given to students that teachers and counselors identified as potentially needing additional reading attention, with about 40 percent of the spaces open to any student.