Reading program brings elementary school students to campus
Summer reading academy hones reading skills in fun, camp-like setting
At one point, the 30 kids…
(Jun 11, 2010) — Summer reading academy hones reading skills in fun, camp-like setting
At one point, the 30 kids gathered in the classroom are crafting the planets Mercury
and Venus out of Styrofoam balls and painting them yellow and orange. Later, the 7-
and 8-year-old students, sitting at six tables, take off their orange aprons and join
a group reading session about a magic space bus. Soon after, they are out the door
for exercises and a game of Red Rover on the Campus Green, under the summer sun.
The flurry of activity is all in a day’s work for Cobb County students entering third
and fourth grades who are participating in KSU’s summer reading academy. Every summer
for the past 10 years, kids from selected Cobb County schools have come to the KSU
campus to participate in Fast Start Academy, a three-week program that reinforces
reading skills in a fun setting. Some 300 students have participated in the Fast Start
Academy since it was launched in 2000.
“It’s not a remedial program, it’s reinforcement,” says Sylvia Inman, assistant director
of Volunteer KSU and founder of the Fast Start Academy. “Remediation can’t be done
in three weeks. That takes longer.”
Fast Start Academy is an extension of KSU’s America Reads, part of a federally funded
national program that sends about 25 KSU students to six elementary schools in Cobb
County during the academic year to tutor kids in reading. In the summer, though, the
children come to KSU.
“I want the children to feel like they’re going to college,” says Inman, a former
elementary school reading teacher. “There is no other program like this one on a college
Fast Start Academy is targeted to 30 students who have fallen behind in reading and
need some individual attention to catch up. Students are nominated by their teachers
at six Cobb County elementary schools (Kennesaw Elementary, Kennesaw Charter, Baker
Elementary, Pitner Elementary, Chalker Elementary and Marietta Charter) and then screened
before they are admitted to the program, Inman says. The daily, six-hour program features
a variety of reading activities in small and large groups, arts and crafts, outdoor
exercise, time to write in a journal and DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read). Participants
also learn new vocabulary words and some math skills. The kids are divided in groups
of five, based on their reading proficiency.
Every year the academy has a theme, and this year it is the solar system (previous
themes have included the rain forest, around the world, and oceans and pirates). All
activities revolve around the planets and the solar system. In the classroom, the
planets hang from the ceiling. On the wall, there are shooting stars created by the
students. Each shooting star has a child’s name and five facts about him or her. Participants
will be creating a solar system diorama, a sun catcher, constellation maps, star origami
and astronaut helmets over the next few weeks.
The Fast Start Academy is staffed by KSU education majors –– two lead teachers and
17 tutors –– such as senior Deborah Allen, who has participated as a tutor since 2008.
This year she is one of the program’s two lead teachers.
“I love it,” says Allen, who is graduating this year. “I like that it gives me real
classroom experience. It gives me a lot of opportunity to implement ideas to help
the students read at grade level.”
Allen explains that the most effective tool for helping students who have fallen behind
in reading is working in small groups, reading and reinforcing what they read. The
children work for about 1 ½ hours a day in groups of five students with two tutors
for individualized instruction. The tutors read with the kids one-on-one and follow
up with questions.
Improving reading skills takes a lot of repetition and reinforcement, says America
Reads coordinator Cheryl Betts. “It takes repetition not only at school but at home
too,” she explains.
While teaching elementary school in Buffalo, N.Y., Inman, the Fast Start Academy founder,
says she took a special interest in kids who fell behind in reading.
“Some students can’t succeed in a large classroom because they need individual attention,”
Fast Start Academy, she says, is a program that benefits many. “It’s a win-win not
only for the participants, their parents and the community but also for KSU students,
who gain valuable experience. It’s a very popular program with Cobb County schools.”
--- Aixa M. Pascual
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.