Dozens of family members, School District Five staff, and community partners were on hand at Harbison West Elementary School for a learning celebration that capped off a summer reading camp for rising fourth grade students. 

The five-week camp housed at Harbison West Elementary School included independent reading, assisted reading, writing workshops, and access to over 2,000 books. Educators say the camp focused on improving reading skills but also gave students tools to help them become lifelong learners.

“I think the students came into the camp thinking that all they would be doing was sitting in a room all day looking at books and reading, but that was not the case,” said Morgan Johnson, School District Five Reading Camp site administrator. “The teachers that we have at the camp are incredible and they really focus on building that community as a classroom first and then teach the students how it is okay to make mistakes and how you can learn from those mistakes. This allows the students to open up and feel more comfortable being vulnerable making those mistakes and growing from them.”

Students also enjoyed activities throughout the camp. They went on a field trip to the Columbia Marionette Theater, used 3D goggles to visit virtual animal habitats, and through a partnership with the SC Geographic Alliance had the opportunity to interact with the Giant South Carolina Map.

“We are providing the students with many strategies and tools to help them build a love for reading,” said Danielle Hance, School District Five Reading Camp lead teacher. “They learn to see themselves as readers and learn ways to work through problems when it may get hard instead of shutting down.”

Summer reading camps statewide were one of the many components of South Carolina’s Act 284, also known as Read to Succeed, which was signed into law in June 2014. Under the law, every district must identify third grade students who are not reading proficiently on grade level and provide them with the opportunity to attend a summer reading camp. 

The forty-seven campers presented their learning for their families during the celebration before they were sent off in style with brand new book bags filled with more than 30 books to keep at home. Gifts were courtesy of School District Five’s partnership with United Way of the Midlands.

Melissa Dunn, United Way of the Midlands director of education, said she loves being able to support educational efforts all across the Midlands and in School District Five.

“To see how excited the children are to be able to take home the books inside a bookbag they have chosen, so they can increase their reading skills is so fulfilling,” she said. “This camp can change the trajectory of students’ lives. It changes their attitude about reading and about who they can be and what they can be. It connects those dots and then opens up a lot of opportunities for the students.”

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