Literacy Training at Knight Lights

Educators call it the “summer slide”, when children’s literacy levels decline over school vacation due to a lack of reading. Researchers say it accounts for as much as 85 percent of the reading achievement gap between lower-income students and middle- and upper-income children.

The Windsor Central School District has partnered with Binghamton University to combat the summer slide with a literacy training program at the Knight Lights summer camp.

“We provide students an opportunity for learning to put them in the best position for next school year while doing it in a camp environment so they don’t feel like they’re just back at school,” said Dr. Marla Mallette, Associate Professor, Literacy Education at Binghamton University.

Mallette oversees 11 graduate students from Binghamton University’s Graduate School of Education who work with students at Knight Lights. The graduate students work with Windsor teachers and provide one-on-one training with students who would most benefit from the help.

“We’re assessing students to see where they might need assistance and what they can build on before entering school,” said graduate student Meghan Rustine, who is working with students entering first grade. “We’ll work on making short vowel sounds, blends of consonants and vowels and guided reading. We like to do fun activities that are also educational.”

One of her students is incoming first-grader Emily Sencho who says she likes reading books.

“I like to read about everyone trying to do stuff they didn’t do before,” said Sencho.

Older students at Knight Lights are reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction. They are reading non-fiction to support the science they are learning as part of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities at Knight Lights.

Those entering 5th grade are also reading the novel Wonder. They’ll read on their own and then in groups to talk about aspects of the book.

“We were writing notes about August, who is the main character in the book. We wrote down important points like what he looks like and what might be going on,” said Madison Strawn, who is entering fifth grade.

“We start with a skill, such as determining the main idea using both fiction and non-fiction text,” said 5th-grade teacher Stephanie Pietrosanti. “With Wonder students are getting into that text and having deep conversations about characters in the book.”

The youngest children in Knight Lights are building on the basics of reading.

“I want to make sure the pre-k kids have knowledge of letters and sounds, the things they picked up from UPK,” said teacher Kristen Matthews, who is working with students entering kindergarten and first grade. “We have stamps, magnets, fishing for letters. We want to make it fun.”

It’s fun with a purpose. While the goal is to prevent the summer slide the end result could be even more.

“It’s a chance not only to maintain their literacy but build their literacy over the summer,” said Mallette.

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