Third-Graders Start Reading Camp Around The State In Effort To Move On To 4th Grade

Summer reading camps are underway around Florida to help struggling third-graders improve their reading skills and move on to 4th grade in the fall. One out of every three third-graders is eligible for reading camp, after failing their F-CATS this year.

Thousands won't improve enough to move on. But the state believes every child who goes through reading camp will still be a success story.

For five weeks, third-graders in this voluntary summer reading camp drill on phonics, learn vocabulary, and read stories.

The stakes are high. They've failed their 3rd grade F-CAT at least once, in some cases twice, but if they pass a test at the end, they can move on to 4th grade.

Teacher Michele Hormer says at first, getting these children reading is tough. “Because it's a challenge to them, it has become something they don't want to do, something that they avoid, so it's getting them back to finding an interest in and a joy and love for reading.”

Even after five weeks of intensive effort, only about one out of four children will move on to 4th grade. But the state says there's a larger goal.

At least two-thousand children could be held back a second time if they still don't pass the test at the end of reading camp. But “Just Read, Florida” director Mary Laura Openshaw says it's not about the numbers. “The goal of these camps is that a student leave the camp a stronger reader than when they entered, regardless of whether they're going to spend some more time in third grade or move on to 4th grade.

A spark for reading is what educators hope to kindle in struggling third-graders around the state this summer.

This is the third year Florida has had summer reading camps for children who fail their 3rd grade F-CAT. State officials say many districts have expanded their camps dramatically since they first started in 2003. Several now offer full-day classes, with breakfast, lunch and transportation.