LitCamp: Southbridge’s Summer Literacy Enrichment Experience

Guest Post by Kathleen Horgan, English teacher Southbridge Public Schools


I am so pleased to have been selected to facilitate the Scholastic’s LitCamp for Southbridge Public Schools this summer. I am one of four teachers who are coordinating LitCamps for approximately seventy-five summer school enrichment students in our district. I am working with rising fourth and fifth graders in one group and rising sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in another group.
I have to confess all of the LitCamp instructors initially were concerned about the outcomes of providing two and a half hoursIMG_0457 of literacy programming each day. We were worried that it might be too much for the kids or if it even would hold their interest, but our students adapted easily into the program and with tremendous enthusiasm. My experience with the students in the LitCamp program has been extraordinarily positive. It has been a joy to see the students embrace reading with such vigor and enjoy it wholeheartedly!


The program is designed to feel like a summer camp. I turned my LitCamp into a beach theme. I often wear a beach hat and the students bring towels, sunglasses, beach blankets, and other items with them to make reading more comfortable, while embracing the spirit of the theme.


During campfire circle-time, there are a large number of high interest diverse texts and fun activities that are built around each book. Also, students are given ample independent reading time called bunk-time. Students choose a book from this extensive collection and seek out a special place in the classroom where they can read silently for pleasure. Students often become so interested in their books that I have to re-collect them from special hiding places so that other students may have access to them later. It is a joy to watch the students fall in love with literature and want to read “their book” the next day.


Our campers will leave LitCamp with a large collection of books that they will be able to keep (along with a portfolio and a stylish bracelet)! Our aim in Southbridge is to turn all of our students into highly accomplished readers and language learners. LitCamp is an important component to the continuation of the We Read Big program through the summer months. I expect many return LitCampers and that our current campers will bring their friends with them next summer, as well. I can’t wait to be a part of this next year, too!


Going Out in Style: End of the Year Literacy Celebration

Gains in Reading

We Read Big did not begin until the start of January 2017. Since that time, our students have devoured the books on these newly assembled shelves and have been immersed in independent reading at rates that we have not seen in our school system (at least in quite sometime). Students read 264,345 minutes in the middle school by the beginning of May, and our small middle school student body read approximately 300,000 minutes by the end of the school year. The relationship that children are having with literature is shifting for the positive and that will make all of the difference for them in the long run.

Celebrating Initial Success

@StudioJJK checking out the crowd as they pile into the auditorium.

On to June 14th to celebrate this milestone, our partners at Scholastic secured a wonderful guest speaker for us, Jarrett Krosczaka. If you are not familiar with Jarrett’s work, then you should become acquainted! Jarrett is a New York Times bestselling author, two-time winner of the Children’s Choice Book Award for the Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year, an Eisner award nominee, and is the author and/ or illustrator of more than thirty books for young readers. His work includes several picture books, select volumes of Star Wars: Jedi Academy, the Lunch Lady graphic novels, and Platypus Police Squad novel series. Jarrett has given two TED Talks, both of which have been curated to the main page of and have collectively accrued more than two million views online. He is also the host of The Book Report with JJK on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, a weekly segment celebrating books, authors, and reading.

Jarrett was amazing. He understood our students having grown up in Worcester (which is

Closing Ceremony
How awesome is it to have a Starwars author in our school!!!!

just a couple of towns over from Southbridge). He immediately connected with even the most skeptical middle schooler as he shared elements of his challenging childhood. His engaging and inspiring presentation led us through his journey of rejection, perseverance, and ultimately success. Several students have since approached me to tell me how great he was and how his message was inspiring.

Jarrett was not our only attraction. Our amazing Middle School band played a John Williams tribute (fitting for an author of the Jedi Academy) and one of our student poets, Merrysa Gonzalez, shared a beautiful poem in tribute to her uncle. These students made us proud!

Looking to Build on our Success for Next Year

While We Read Big has been a success, there is so much more for us to accomplish. Our goal is to read 1,000,000 minutes during the following academic year. We are launching our Literacy Ambassador program (in which middle school students will be heading to the elementary schools to read to younger students), a student authored book review page on this blog, and arming our teachers with better tools to confer with student’s about their independent reading. Next year will be bigger and better than last. Stay tuned!

Closing ceremony 2
@StudioJJK posing with one our students!

We Read Big for Summer Reading

Southbridge’s Comprehensive Literacy Solution, We Read Big.
A comprehensive literacy solution, We Read Big, is being introduced in phases throughout the Southbridge Public Schools. Our goal is to put high quality and high interest books in the hands of our students in order to foster a love of literature. This love of literature will help make our students more competitive in our state and globally by increasing their fluency and access to new ideas. “Giving students the opportunity to read diverse books across genres equips them with the necessary tools to imagine a future without limits. This is why this program is so exciting,” says Adam Couturier, Humanities Curriculum Coordinator in Southbridge Public Schools.

Rising 4th Graders Receive Summer Reading Backpacks
Our We Read Big Literacy Initiative is beginning to provide quality choices of literature through a variety of approaches. One such approach is augmenting our current summer reading program beginning for 4th grade students. Each 4th grader in Southbridge received a backpack with a collection of books to add to or begin their own home library. This collection of literature includes diverse texts that should make it so that every child has found a book that will spark his or her interest. Also, in these backpacks are Summer Reading Journals and activity sheets that are designed to engage the whole family.

Adam Couturier states, “We are very excited to launch this Summer Reading Initiative for the Southbridge Public Schools. Summer is a time when many students lose achievement gains made during the school year. Our goal is not only to limit that ‘slide,’ but also ignite a love for reading in each and every child.” The goal is that students not only maintain their learning gains, but continue to make strides throughout the summer through this initiative.

Kick Off Celebration with Clifford the Big Red Dog
On June 15th, Clifford the Big Red Dog© joined our rising 4th graders throughout the district in kicking off our summer reading initiative. He helped pass out books bags and posed for pictures with our students. Thanks for coming, Clifford.