Copperas Cove students saddle up to improve reading skills

Special to Leader-Press 

Copperas Cove ISD held its second annual Ranger Reading Camp, sponsored by the district’s DoDEA II grant, “Project READS”, which awarded $5 million to the district in 2016 to use over the next five years. Project “READS” stands for Ready for Engaged Academics, Discipline and Self-Determination. Improving literacy is one of the major goals outlined in the grant. The grant campuses served by the DoDEA II grant are Hettie Halstead and Fairview Miss Jewell Elementary Schools with priority registration given to military-connected students.  
“Our students leave camp with a love of reading they may not have had before,” camp administrator Deanna Thompson said. 
Students at this year’s camp received intensive reading instruction, literacy-rich activities and field trips centered around a western theme.
Guest cowboy storyteller, Malcolm Dickinson, shared a special book with the students.
“Reading makes you powerful. Reading gives you the power to do anything, to learn about anything,” Dickinson told the youngsters.
Halstead student Avariee Barron said she hadn’t met a real cowboy before and always dreamed of being a cowgirl. 
“The story was a little emotional, but I liked it,” Barron said. “I really like reading because it gives you what you have to learn. If you’re learning about how to go camping, you can read a camping book.” 
Campers also took field trips to the First Cavalry Horse Detachment stables on Fort Hood for a demonstration show and a barn tour.
“I liked the horse show and learning about the history of the cavalry,” Halstead student Min Son said. 
A typical day for campers consisted of free breakfast, six class rotations including: targeted reading instruction, art with a literacy tie in, library, active literacy, independent reading, writing, a free book pick, and free lunch.  CCISD also provided transportation for campers.  
The DoDEA grant focuses on the social and emotional needs of CCISD’s military connected students which comprised about 35 percent of campers. 
“Military kids can move between 6-9 times in their K-12 career, sometimes more.  When you add in deployments, family separations, and such, you see that the military lifestyle affects students,” CCISD Military Student Transition Consultant Heather Peacock said. 
Grant Director, Heidi Nelson, attributes the success of camp to a lot of planning, quality literacy-based learning experiences, a top notch staff, and a team effort.  
“My heart was full, when on a recent field trip, two students took their free books out of their backpacks on the bus and read. Reading is powerful.”

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