Almost 40 students at Skyline Elementary spent their Friday morning meeting D.D., a character from the book “Twist of Fate,” along with author Chris Stuckenschneider, although she was a little better at answering questions than D.D.
Stuckenschneider brought along D.D., one of the many horses that inspired the story “Twist of Fate,” to Skyline as part of the reading summer camp’s Horse Week. Every reading and writing activity this week revolved around the horse theme, including reading Stuckenschneider’s book, which is based on a true story.
“It’s about these horses that are on their way to a slaughterhouse and then there’s an accident,” said student Mary Dennis. “They were supposed to die but then this accident happened.”
“And it’s about a rescue ranch and how the horses got rescued,” classmate Elijah Wells added.
Meeting D.D. and Stuckenschneider seemed to be the highlight of reading camp so far for the students. Many of the students were eager to ask questions, and there were lots of smiling faces as Stuckenschneider showed photos of the animal characters in real life.
“I liked how they rescued the horses,” Wells said. “And I really like horses.”
“It was pretty awesome,” Dennis said of meeting D.D. “I never thought I would meet her.”
The full morning of events was part of the Sedalia School District 200’s summer reading camp at each elementary school, which helps students who have completed kindergarten through third grade improve their reading and writing skills, as well as helps students avoid that “summer slump” that comes from being out of the classroom for three months.
“Some schools open it to any student, but we invite specific kids that we think would benefit from it,” said teacher Jeri Perkins. “Some need a little boost and this is a chance for them to get caught up. For others it’s maintaining those skills so they don’t get the summer slump.”
The students spend the month of July reading both fiction and non-fiction works, and writing short stories and poems, and complete other literacy-based activities. Student volunteers from Smith-Cotton High School assist the three teachers at Skyline, and help run various stations so the teachers can focus on small reading groups. Perkins said she hears each student read aloud every day.
“The camp also gives the students a sense of community they may not have felt during the school year,” Perkins said. “There’s 10 to 11 kids in each small group with a teacher, and we have good teen helpers, so it helps establish a sense of family. Sometimes students can get lost in a classroom of 25 kids.”
Perkins and the students also read the Democrat every morning. Perkins reads through the front page headlines and sometimes reads portions of articles. They also skim through obituaries, and they discuss the difference between opinion and fact when the Democrat’s opinion page is published. However, Perkins said everyone’s favorite section is the police reports. Last year the students created a newsletter, based on the Democrat, that included opinion columns and news articles written by the students. This summer’s project hasn’t been decided on yet.
Next week is Baseball Week, and a few special guests from the Sedalia Bombers will be spending some time with the students, who will be interviewing the players about what it takes to be a Bomber, and if reading is important to them.
Students are assessed in both the spring and fall on how many words per minute they can read, and the fall test can be more difficult since it’s in a new grade level. Data has shown that students who attend reading camp either sustain or improve their words-per-minute scores when they improve in the fall, Perkins said. It seems the students agree.
“(Reading camp) is mostly about fun, writing and reading,” Wells said. “I learned a lot of stuff.”
“Me too,” Dennis chimed in.