What a remarkable experience my first summer reading camp in Ghana has been. I find it enriching to my soul to find a world so different from my own, yet so the same. Ghanaians have the same needs, the same emotions, joys and hardships as we do. Children behave as children all over the world, playing and laughing, and at this camp practicing their reading in English. There are many languages in Ghana, so English is a universal language that binds the nation.
We begin our morning at 9:00 AM with a hymn of the blessed trinity, the Lord’s prayer, and singing for fun. The children are always eager to learn new songs and sing with gusto! One girl is able to attend the camp only if she brings her toddler cousin. Hannah is much the camp mascot, joining in song, coloring in the art room, and lunching with the children. She is a future reading camp member!
After opening exercises, the three classes return to their classrooms. I teach class 2, a group of children who are already readers, knowing letters and sounds, capable of reading the lower level books. I begin our opening activities with reading and singing the songs and poems that we have already learned. Then I teach the song of the day, which today is “Five Little Ducks”. Children take turns being the teacher and pointing to the words on the chart as we sing. The children find and underline vocabulary words, look at words with the same beginning sound, make rhyming word families, and more reading activities.
The children return to their seats and receive a personal copy of the day’s song to glue into their exercise book. They write and draw words and pictures that relate to the song. One of the challenges for the camp teachers is to instill confidence in the children about their drawing abilities. In Ghanaian schools, perfection is required, so I find that the children will draw and erase, draw and erase, draw again, and erase again! If I model how to draw a duck, they will strive to make their ducks look exactly like mine, and continually drawing and erasing! I want this to be fun! So I have learned not to show them how, and to let them discover on their own.
Every day each student receives a story book of their own. Five books in five days to keep. They will also take home pencils, crayons, glue sticks, and a sharpener in a brand new bag while wearing a brand new t-shirt.
For each story I do a picture walk first, using the pictures to find out what the story is about. Then I read the story aloud together, then in small groups. The children hunt for vocabulary words in the stories.
Today I taught my class the game of “Around the World” using all of the vocabulary words we’ve had over the last four days. This was definitely a highlight of the day. Once the children caught on to trying to be the first to say the word and so continue around the world, they were full of laughter and pride. I was pleased to note that every child at one time or another was a winner, though of course some do better than others. It didn’t take long for me to step aside a sleader and have that role filled by some of the children.
Every day includes library time for children to read for fun and complete word puzzles and games. We have an art period where we draw, color, cut and paint. Some of the children want to leave their art projects at school so little brothers or sisters don’t get their hands on them!
My name is Joanna Haslem, a joyful first-timer reading camp teacher. My heart is filled with gratitude that the Lord has led me to this mission and has given me the gifts needed to bring a love of reading to the Ghanaian children