Grads ready to hit the books

Improvement: Camp activities have produced better, more enthusiastic readers at the Federal Hill site and elsewhere.

August 22, 1999|By Zerline A. Hughes | Zerline A. Hughes,SUN STAFF

The summer fun is over.

Daily field trips, splashing in a pool, museum-hopping -- it all ended last week with graduation ceremonies for the 70 SuperKids Camp youngsters at Baltimore's Federal Hill Elementary School, and hundreds more at 16 other camp sites.

But one thing the campers at Federal Hill Elementary School will be able to take with them as a new school year dawns is a new attitude about reading.

"Reading was fun before, but now it's better," said Josh Millward, 8, after the SuperKids Camp closing ceremonies Thursday. "I learned how to read and write better. Now, I'll know everything I didn't know when I was in school last year."

SuperKids Camp has finished its third summer. The 17 sites -- 16 in the city, and one at Goucher College in Baltimore County -- have devoted 60 hours to reading this summer, giving the soon-to-be third graders enrolled in the eight-week program a chance to excel when they return to school Aug. 30.

The Federal Hill camp staff and sponsors gave the children a push in the right direction with words of wisdom and new backpacks -- complete with school supplies.

Standing on stage in the graduation finery of lace dresses, jackets and ties, and mile-wide smiles, SuperKids campers showed an audience of family members, friends and camp founder Sally Michel a little of what they learned during the summer.

One group showed its memorization skills by reciting original poems.

Another group read fairy tales from books made by the pupils, a project that had reinforced their reading skills.

Campers also performed dances and skits, which they learned during the enrichment activities portion of the summer program.

The children also learned to improve their attitudes as the camp emphasized important core values of honesty, respect, responsibility and caring.

Nathan Hunt, 8, who said he is doing better in all areas, was awarded a certificate for the most-improved camper in his group.

"When I first went to camp, I was bad," he said. "Then I started to be good because camp was fun. I had problems reading, but I learned how to read. Reading is fun, and so is going out to play."

Gracye Johnson, grandmother of Kwame Grissom, said she has seen "a big improvement" in the 8-year-old. "[His school was] talking about repeating him in the second grade, but I think he's going to excel now. He's more confident and he takes more opportunities to read signs on the streets, billboards."

Janice Blue beamed with excitement when her 8-year-old granddaughter Janezes Blue recited a poem with three fellow campers on stage.

"She reads like a little bookworm," she said. "She just skyrocketed. She really has grown and so much progress is made by all the kids. I wish the program could continue into the fourth grade."

The kids' success during the summer was so noticeable that even site administrator Sheila Hurtt hoped to see SuperKids Camp continue as an after-school program to monitor pupils' progress and continue one-on-one attention. But Michel says lack of money stands in the way of that goal for now.

"Mostly I hope we'll be able to continue this next year," said Michel, a community activist. "I hope we'll have even more students."

While the SuperKids campers seemed ready to take their leave and take on the third grade, many of their camp reading instructors found it a little tough to wave goodbye.

"I'm going to miss the children," said instructor Fred Karr. "They've been part of my life all summer. I'm really going to miss the kids."

Pub Date: 8/22/99

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