Over 150 children from the Mountain View area are attending an annual camp in the capital city of Belmopan. The camp focuses on literacy; teaching kids to read well. Students who attend the camp get a lot of one and one assistance courtesy of several volunteers; some high school volunteers and other volunteers from the USA. Emily Martinez Palacio a teacher at Saint Martin’s Government School who has worked with various literacy projects helping kids to increase their proficiency in reading. She coordinates the camp and told PlusNews that the children are learning to ready, but are also learning to write their own stories and songs.
“The most important highlight of this camp this year is taking them through the writing process. It took them all the way from brainstorming, to drafting, to editing, and then we have our finished product, which is a book. This camp is important because it goes through many things. We have serving the kids. We have high school volunteers. These high school volunteers come in and they help the younger ones. We have families that come from the States to help us. So, it’s a collaborative effort where the community comes together to help overcome our reading problems that we’re having. I’m so excited and enthusiastic, because I have seen the light-bulb going on in the children, that they can relate to a book. It is my book. They have owned the book. So books will not be strange to them anymore. They own the book. It is my book, and I can publish a book. That is the beginning of moving away from children disliking books. So it helps them to embrace books and have them work on their own.”
Dr Aileen Hale first came to Belize some years ago on a Fulbright scholarship, working in teacher education. She heads a small group of volunteers from the USA that are helping to ensure, not only that the camp runs smoothly, but that the children get the quality one on one time they need to learn to read and write proficiently.
“Our mission here is to partner with schools and like Miss Emily Martinez Palacio, to develop global partnerships, for to further English Language proficiency of the children of Belize. It will build language partners from the United States to Belize. We are partnering with schools at Saint Matthew’s, and Hills of Promise. It is our first Summer to work with Miss Emily’s Summer Literacy Camp. We’re very thrilled to be a part of this, as Emily embodies our methodology of teaching English through the incorporation of music, and co- creating books with the children, to improve their reading, writing, and literacy skills. This, in particular, is a vowel book, to show the children that through music, we take songs such as ‘Wheels On The Bus’, they can become authors of their own books. They create their own lyrics to the song tune of ‘Wheel’s On The Bus’. We take their pictures and include them in the book. They create the lyrics. We brainstorm from the beginning to the end. We do it in English and Spanish, to build on many children’s first language. [We] do each letter of the alphabet, so that they are featured in the book, as both authors, and their pictures are included in the book.”
On the last day of the camp, which is Friday, the students will be heading to Placencia for a day of fun. However, they will be expected to write an essay on their experience. There will also be a literacy Night where kids showcase to their parents what they have learnt and produced.