Preventing Summer Slide with Wild Readers Camp

As educators, we all know the value of independent reading and continued learning. During the summer, some of our most fragile learners suffer from what has become known as summer slide or summer learning loss. Kids in poverty lack quality books in their homes, lack access to public and school libraries during the summer, and typically have to drive miles to get to the nearest bookstore. Therefore, all access to reading materials is lost. No books means no reading unless they are lucky enough to have an electronic reader such as a Kindle or iPad. So what can be done to prevent this problem? My school came up with a very successful solution. 


For our primary students, we decided to offer a camping opportunity. Many of our advantaged students participate in wonderful camps throughout the summer, but for those with working parents or those on a tight budget, these opportunities just don't exist. So, we decided to offer a fun experience with a little learner worked in. 

The first step to our plan was to organize our schedule and invite the children we felt would come.  We selected kids based on academic need first and then included more as we had kids decline.  For our program, we partnered with a local college which meant we could have a group of students working with each small group. The students received practicum credit, so it was a win-win for all. The college chose to work with rising first and second graders, and our staff works with rising third and fourth graders. We limited the total number of students to ten per grade, so the students experience lots of small group attention. Once students were identified, the letters were sent inviting them to the program. We want the kids to want to come, so we worked hard on talking up how fun it would be.  
Here is the letter introducing the program, the registration form, and the emergency medical. I am sharing it in a template form so that you can tailor it to your own needs. Just add your dates and details, and you are good to go.  [Click Here] to download the forms.

The Camp Expeerience

For our camp, we were able to use Title 1 funding which covered paying a few teachers, our librarian, and covering transportation costs. For our students coming to camp, transportation really is important. We also were able to provide snacks with the help of our local food bank.  The camp ran from 8:30 to 11:30 Monday through Thursday for three weeks starting in July.

The Basic Plan

To make it light and fun, we chose to pick a theme a week, and I actually had my group choose from options I gave them. They ended up picking oceans, animals, and weather last summer, but I'm not sure what we'll go with this summer.  I'm thinking insects, camping, and travel might be fun for this summer.  From there, the planning part is easy. Of course, I started with Teachers Pay Teachers, and honestly, I found all the materials for free. I added in tradebook sets we had (a mixture of fiction and nonfiction), word study games I already had, technology, and time with the librarian, and that was it. We spent our time focused on word work, fluency (poem of the day and readers theater), reading/comprehension, and writing. I made our sessions more project oriented (the kids love working on projects and in cooperative groups).  The librarian worked with the group 45 minutes to allow independent reading time, check out time, and time for Accelerated Reader (kids were able to accumulate "bonus points" toward first quarter goals).  We also used the computer lab for a 30 minute block as well which allowed me to work in a little math.  Trust me, the three hours went quickly because we were honestly having a great time.  

The Benefits

  • Camp is fun, and the kids begin to see reading as a fun activity versus hard work when it's relaxed and comfy. 
  • Because we are able to work in such a small setting, the teachers helping with the camp get to know the students well too making an important connection. 
  • They are able to recognize student strengths and weaknesses which helps prepare for the coming year. 
  • With the library open for camp, we are also able to offer library check out and Accelerated Reader time to all other students.  The last forty five minutes of camp was offered to anyone wishing to check out, and many took advantage of the opportunity.
  • Teachers get to choose how and what they want to teach in our program, so for me, that is liberating.  The time is not focused on following a pacing guide or set standard, but is just meant to keep our students reading and engaged.
  • For parents, it keeps the kids socializing and busy with positive activities versus being home watching tv.  

The Results

Last summer, the parents were thrilled with their children's enthusiasm and growth, as were we. Teachers were able to communicate student needs for follow up time (remainder of the summer), and we all decided to host it again this summer. Students enjoyed having their work showcased at open house too. We displayed their work and pictures of the kids which made everyone feel so proud.

Interested in more information?
Looking for a solution to the summer slide dilemma? Check out this post on Comprehension Connection about how Carla's school tackled the problem with Wild Readers Camp, a fun learning opportunity for the primary grades.

If you'd like more information, I blogged about each week last summer.  You can read about each week's theme below.

What do you do to help your students in the summer? I would love it if you could share in the comments


  1. Carla- This looks wonderful! You provided so many helpful details and specifics. Makes me want to attend camp! :-) Lauren

    1. Ah! Thanks Lauren! It was a lot of fun for the kids last summer, so I hope they enjoy it again this year. Thanks for dropping by.


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