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Literacy Camp Brings Books And Animals To City Heights Kids

Nine-year-old Timothy Tang holds up his favorite book, Tree Lady, at the City...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: Nine-year-old Timothy Tang holds up his favorite book, Tree Lady, at the City Heights Weingart Library in San Diego on Friday August 10, 2018.

About 60 elementary school children got to make some new furry, feathered and scaly friends at the City Heights Weingart Library on Friday. It was part of a summer camp program designed to help kids keep their reading skills sharp.

Educators say summer vacation is often a time when children fall behind in their reading abilities, especially in neighborhoods where most parents work. Nine-year-old Timothy Tang said he was having trouble with reading because his mother was not able to help him.

"The vocabulary was so hard I almost quit,” he said.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Fay Elementary Kindergartener Alice Dodd pets a hedgehog at the City Heights Weingart Library in San Diego on Friday August 10, 2018.

United Way’s Readers in the Heights camp is designed for children like Tang. It’s free for parents, through San Diego Unified’s PrimeTime Extended Day Program. Now, Tang reads at least 30 minutes at home after all day at camp, five days a week.

“It saved my favorite subject,” he said.

Photo credit: Courtesy of United Way.

Readers in the Heights Summer 2017 super stats.

Volunteers read with the students, who then draw and write about what they read. Program organizer Marisa Alvarez said it is important to keep children from backsliding in their reading levels.

“If kids are not, by third grade, reading at a third-grade reading level, they’re four times more likely to not graduate from high school,” she said.

Alvarez said that while 89 to 97 percent of third-graders at higher income schools read at a third-grade level, the number falls to 38 percent in City Heights. "So there’s a big discrepancy there, a big disparity there. That’s why we are here focusing on City Heights as a high-need population,” she said.

She said 84 percent of last year's campers either maintained or improved their reading levels over the summer.

This is the camp's third year of operation. United Way plans to use the motivational techniques learned here to help literacy in other parts of the county soon.

Timothy goes back to school at the end of the month - and he said he feels more ready.

“Maybe like 99 percent. I feel pretty confident,” he said.

Video by Katie Schoolov

City Heights children met some new furry and scaly friends at the Weingart Library Friday, in a program designed to keep kids interested in reading during summer vacation.

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