​SES Read to be Ready Summer Camp

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Read to be Ready isn’t “summer school” insisted director Barbara King, who for the second year will head up the four-week summer program at Sewanee Elementary School. “We want it to feel more like a camp,” King insisted. “We want kids to discover reading is fun.”
The themes of the program—nature, farm, science and sports—find expression in the books volunteers read to the children during breakfast and lunch and in the hands-on activities children engage in. This year’s campers will make tie-dye T-shirts, birdhouses, and seed planters, and go on field trips to Falls Mill, the University Farm, and Abbo’s Alley.
Activities in the literacy component of the program include reading aloud and shared reading, writing workshops, journaling, readers’ theater, and taking weekly field trips to the Franklin County Library and May Justus Memorial Library in Monteagle. Children will also visit duPont Library at the University of the South.
All children participating in the program receive 10-15 free books to keep, King said. Geared to rising first through third graders, SES teachers recommend students for the programs based on need.
Tennessee established the Read to be Ready program in 2016. Test results showed less than half of third graders read at grade level and only one-third of economically disadvantaged third graders had achieved proficiency. These children were four times less likely to graduate from high school.
A $1 million gift from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation financed the three-year program. SES first grade teacher Barbara King learned about the Ready to be Ready grant opportunity in a newsletter from Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen.
It was King’s first grant writing experience, and she confessed it was hard work, but well worth it. The children loved the program, King said. “They were always eager to come back the next day and so excited to get the books.”
Inspired, King not only applied for a 2018 Read to be Ready grant for SES; she led a grant writing workshop for the other Franklin County elementary schools. Seven of the eight schools participated, and all seven applied for and received 2018 Read to be Ready funding.
In 2017, Decherd Elementary was the only other Franklin County school besides SES to offer the program. This year, Sewanee children’s book author Mary Priestley will present a book writing workshop at Decherd Elementary in conjunction with a PEN Foundation opportunity, and King hopes to include a field trip to Priestley’s workshop as part of the SES Read to be Ready experience.
Grant funding pays for field trip transportation, while the University of the South provides breakfast and lunch through the Summer Food Services Program of the South Cumberland Community Fund.
The 5-to-1 student teacher ratio allows for lots of special attention, King noted, with four SES teachers leading the instructional groups.
At breakfast and lunch, volunteers read aloud for 15-30 minutes. King welcomes anyone who would like to read. She also encourages community members interested in leading a hands-on activity to contact her. This year, in conjunction with the science theme, volunteer Sarah Rundle will present a program on Sewanee area rocks and minerals.
King extended thanks to the Blue Chair for ice-cream rewards for the first week of perfect attendance. King hopes to find other area businesses to donate attendance prizes for the other three weeks of the program.
Children receive a pre- and post-assessment to gauge changes in reading comprehension and vocabulary and a separate assessment to gauge changes in reading interest.
“We want children to develop a joy for and love of reading,” King stressed, that’s what the program is all about. To volunteer, contact King at barbara.king@fcstn.net.