Photo by Chris Crews.

According to a study conducted in 2014, only about 40 percent of third graders in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools read at grade level. To address this issue, the Cato College of Education has partnered with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), ourBRIDGE For Kids, the Aldersgate Retirement Community and the Levine Jewish Community Center (LJCC) to provide second and third graders with a summer reading camp.

The program is entering its third year of success. The summer reading camp which takes place at ourBRIDGE For Kids campus, a nonprofit that provides academic and socio-emotional support for refugee and immigrant children, was able to host 60 students from three Title I elementary schools. The elementary schools include Merry Oaks, Winterfield and Windsor Park.  

At the reading camp, students receive one-on-one or small group instruction to advance their literacy skills while also enjoying fun traditional summer camp activities, such as playing games and swimming.

The program has made a distinct impact. Research has found that the children who participated in the program “made an equivalent of 11 weeks growth in oral reading fluency.”

The program has also been sustainable and impactful due to its partnership with the Aldersgate Retirement Community, the community that also houses ourBRIDGE’s campus. Those residing at the community have been able to read with the children and help them improve their skills throughout the summer.

The Levine Jewish Community Center aims to honor and award advances and missions like the summer reading camp. The Cato College of Education was honored with the Yachad Award for their work to improve literacy rates throughout Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

One of the other main reasons the college was honored with this award is due to the partnerships it has fostered throughout the years with communities that embrace positive change. The partnerships also progress the mission of “ensuring that everyone has a chance to grow in Charlotte.”

Linda Lang, the literacy coordinator at ourBRIDGE, and Sil Ganzo, the executive director of ourBRIDGE, have felt the direct impact of the program on their own students. Many of the participants in the summer reading camp were students from ourBRIDGE’s academic year program.

Lang stated that the literacy department at ourBRIDGE For Kids has been able to learn and observe the teaching methods and strategies used at the reading camp. She expounded that they have emulated some of the strategies and have seen improvements in their own students.

Ganzo and Lang also agreed that “opening the doors to other members of the community has highlighted our after-school program’s existence to many families who were not familiar with ourBRIDGE For Kids” and many of the students from the reading camp have now become students at ourBRIDGE’s after-school program.

It is the hope that the camp will continue to run and provide resources to the second and third graders.

The Cato College of Education was also given the Tzedakah Box, a container that is used to collect donations for charitable causes. The box is located in the Cato College of Education dean’s office.

When the award was given to the group, the LJCC honored Dean Ellen McIntyre and Bill Anderson from the Cato College of Education; David Flores, a CMS teacher; Sil Ganzó the executive director of ourBRIDGE; and Daniela Mickey who directed the LJCC camp portion of the reading program, for their continued dedication towards the program and its mission.


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