Advice and strategies to help your children...


Advice and strategies to help your children read

Camps make learning fun

Summer camp is often perceived as a vacation from school, but it can also be a place for kids to pick up valuable academic skills. Locally, there are camps to meet every interest, price and schedule. Youngsters can refresh their reading fundamentals -- phonics, comprehension, writing or spelling -- or focus on using reading in everyday applications, such as news stories. Programs such as "College for Kids" at Towson University or "Kids on Campus" at Howard Community College bring the younger crowd onto the big turf with enticing courses. Other benefits such camps can offer are heightened confidence, increased enthusiasm and openness to new approaches to reading. Start looking early. You'll want to give yourself plenty of time to gather information. Whatever the goals, the fundamental intent has to be fun.

Choosing a camp:

Attend open houses and fairs.

Word of mouth is helpful, but camp directors are the best source. Question the director to learn the camp's focus and to determine how its underlying philosophy and concerns match your child.

Obtain camp guides from local libraries.

Ask questions:

What experience does the staff have in the area of reading? Camps with academic programs should have professional teachers instructing campers. Find out how long they've been on staff.

What is the age range of the groups being taught, and how are the children grouped for academic activities?

What is the counselor/camper ratio? The rule of thumb is the younger the child, the smaller the ratio should be. Some summer programs offer one-to-one teaching during the camp day.

How does the camp measure a child's progress in reading?

How much time during the camp day is devoted to academics, specifically reading?

What is the return rate of previous campers?

Question parents of former campers:

Were expectations met? How?

Did your child gain skills in reading above what you expected?

How did your child respond to the counselors or teachers?

What didn't you like about the program?

Web resources:

American Camping Association:

Peterson's Education Center:

Susan Rapp

Village Reading Center

RIF lists multicultural favorites

Reading is Fundamental (RIF, -- a national network of teachers, parents and community volunteers -- delivers family literacy programs that help motivate and prepare children to read. In conjunction with Book Adventure (, a Web-based child literacy initiative, RIF polled its area projects to find out which books were kids' favorites. These 10 topped multicultural titles:

"Amazing Grace" by Mary Hoffman

"A Chair for My Mother" by Vera B. Williams

"Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale" by John Steptoe

"Lon Po-Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China" by Ed Young

"Boundless Grace: Sequel to Amazing Grace" by Mary Hoffman

"Seven Chinese Brothers" by Margaret Mahy

"Tar Beach" by Faith Ringgold

"Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto

"Tikki Tikki Tembo" by Arlene Mosel

"Abiyoyo: Based on a South African Lullaby and Folk Story" by Pete Seeger

-- Tricia Bishop

On Wednesdays: The Just for Kids section with read-aloud story, puzzles and poster

The Sun's readers tell their success stories and offer tips on encouraging children to read.

A book on wheels

"We listen to a lot of books on tape while in the car. Talking about the books helps improve vocabulary. With an exciting story in the tape player, we don't mind dreary trips, or waiting at lights and fast food lines."

-- Monica Ballard, Ellicott City

Read 'em and eat

"I have my son read the directions on frozen foods or boxed dinners, and he knows that if he doesn't read the directions, I won't be cooking dinner."

-- Samantha Abbott, Baltimore

Late-night treat

"Tell your children they may stay up an extra half-hour to read -- not to watch TV -- and show them the books you loved as a child."

-- Rosemary Tripoli Robinson, Laurel

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