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Education Department ecstatic for the return of its reading camp

When the Marietta College reading camp returns to campus this June, children will be invited to experience the children’s book “The Wild Robot” through reading, art, science, music and more.

It is a comprehensive approach proven to have an impact on a student’s reading development. The book’s main character is Roz, a robot who is stranded on an island.

“At the core of the program will be the children’s book, and we will build from that — science, nature, design and engineering, art and music, we are just beginning to develop what we will do,” says Dr. Dottie Erb, Professor Emerita of Education, who was involved with the launch of the reading camp back in the mid-1990s. The camp has been renamed the Erb Hancock Reading Camp in honor of Erb and Dr. Carole Hancock, Professor Emerita of Education and former reading camp director.

The camp was last offered in summer 2014. The goal of the camp — then and now — is to provide opportunities to Marietta College students and children in the community at the same time.

This year’s camp will take 80 children ranging from youngsters entering kindergarten through sixth grade, with emphasis on the earlier grades. Ten Marietta College students will be chosen to work as paid interns and serve as teachers for the camp, maintaining an 8:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Marietta College students who have completed designated reading courses will be able to apply for the positions.

The reading camp offers Education majors the opportunity to create their own classrooms and utilize cutting-edge teaching strategies.

“The reading camp will offer them a chance to think about how they will structure a class and develop relationships with students,” says Dr. Tanya Judd Pucella, Chair of the Education Department. “This will be their first opportunity to truly own the classroom.”

Hancock is glad the reading camp will be offered once again.

“It means a lot to me because it’s a service to the young children of this area,” Hancock says. “Kids are into iPads and phones, and they don’t develop the joy of holding a book, reading and letting their imagination add in the extra pieces.”

Hancock says she sees a lot of possibilities with this year’s book and theme of the camp.

“I’d like to answer the question, ‘What is a friend and does a friend have to be just like us?’”

Local schools have asked the College for opportunities to help children in the community reach reading goals set by the state — and the return of Marietta College’s camp can help. The camp builds activities around a central theme, but part of the camp also helps children identify their interests and assesses their reading comprehension.

Targeting students during the summer months is important, Erb says, because students who don’t continue to read and develop skills over the summer can actually lose reading skills.

Marietta College is creating an arts and literacy endowment to support the program, says Dr. Janet Bland, Provost and Dean of the Faculty. But it’s hoped the community will support the effort, too. Individuals or agencies can make donations to the endowment or perhaps sponsor a student.

“The College is taking care of the cost of the camp for the first year, but we are looking for community help,” Bland says. Marietta Morning Rotary will be a partner for the camp, as it was in the past.

Judd Pucella is happy to see the return of the reading camp from a parent’s perspective, too. Her son has attended in the past and will participate one last time this summer.

“The camp fine-tuned and improved his skills and helped ignite his passion for reading,” she says. “I also like the idea that this year’s theme fits the idea of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), especially exploration and sciences. The reading camp is always a good balance of boys and girls, so it addresses the need to get young women interested in those areas.”

- Jennifer Folwell