The summer literacy camps are an innovative way to help children in disadvantaged areas boost their reading and writing skills, but the range of activities used make sure it definitely doesn’t feel like being back at school.
At Holy Spirit Girls’ National School in the Dublin northside suburb of Ballymun, 36 girls have been taking part over the last five days.
“Some of the girls are very quiet in class or maybe have low self esteem, and they might not always get enough of their teacher’s time,” said the school’s project co-ordinator Lisa Crehan.
But with three groups of 12 each, literacy camp teachers Paula Galligan, Ita Heverin and Lisa Heverin were able to give individual attention to all the girls during the five-days of work.
“They did drama with Hansel and Gretel, where the emphasis was on words and spellings. Another exercise had them making characters from play dough and using the computer to create their own animations, but the girls had to write the story,” Ms Crehan said.
“I think they had best fun making recipes and cooking chocolate logs.
“It’s amazing to see them running into school in the morning to get started and hopefully that attitude to school will continue as a result of what they’ve learned here,” she said.
The 325-pupil school is in the middle of Ballymun which is undergoing significant regeneration in recent years. But, just like all other socially deprived parts of the country, children in the area have below-average literacy levels.
The week-long camps are funded under the Department of Education’s DEIS programme for disadvantaged schools and have been taking place at 40 schools around the country, most during July and some in August.
Minister of State at the Department of Education Sean Haughey said the project, on which €240,000 is being spent, recognises that different children learn in different ways.
“The child who may have considerable difficulty in learning to read through conventional methods may experience a breakthrough when reading is approached through drama, movement, dance, music or art,” said Mr Haughey, who visited the literacy camps at Holy Spirit Girls NS and at St Joseph’s Girls National School in Finglas yesterday.