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Camp gives kids early jump working on literary skills

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Rising first-graders Joshua Farashian, front right, and Alyssa Clay work on a poem during the Riverside Literacy Institute held for students from the North Gwinnett and Lanier clusters. Farashian wrote about a time he went camping, while Clay wrote about fireworks.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Rising first-graders Joshua Farashian, front right, and Alyssa Clay work on a poem during the Riverside Literacy Institute held for students from the North Gwinnett and Lanier clusters. Farashian wrote about a time he went camping, while Clay wrote about fireworks.

SUWANEE -- Reed Golden said he has always been a good writer, but after spending a week at the Riverside Literacy Institute, he has developed a better mastery of the craft.

The camp, which ends today, brought together about 150 students from the elementary schools in the North Gwinnett and Lanier clusters to participate in activities focused on reading and writing.

Cheryl Cole, a literacy coach at Riverside Elementary School, said the Literacy Institute was designed for kids who are good writers, as well as those who are reluctant writers.

"This gives kids the opportunity to see that writing is not simply for a grade," said Cole, a co-director of the camp housed at Riverside Elementary. "It's a setting of authentic literacy. ... They'll leave here thinking of themselves as writers ... and take (the skills that they learn) back to their classrooms when they start school again."

Faye Richards, also a literacy coach at Riverside, said the teachers leading the classes focused on developing activities that the children would enjoy.

"We tried to make it fun for them, so that they are enjoying it, and they're having fun and don't even know they're learning," said Richards, co-director of the Institute. "In the summer, children get very lazy, and they don't read and they don't write. Hopefully, this will keep them reading and writing all summer long."

Avery Ward, 9, said she thinks the camp has been inspiring.

"I've learned a lot," she said. "I'm with my favorite teacher, and I'm having fun. ... Writing is my thing."

Avery said one thing she particularly enjoyed was making new friends and discussing ideas for stories.

Reed, also 9, said he wanted to attend the Literacy Institute because he wanted to learn. One of his favorite activities was writing poetry and adding sensory details to his writing.

Another highlight of the program was getting to meet published authors Deborah Wiles, an Atlanta resident who has written four novels, and Sarah Voskamp, a 10-year-old who has published a chapter book.

After listening to the authors speak, Reed said, "I thought maybe I could try to be an author and have a book someday."

Seven-year-old Sydney Winkler said she really enjoyed hearing Sarah speak.

"It was so cool, because I've never heard of a 10-year-old girl who can write a book," she said.