Literacy the key to life

Expanded summer camp part of city campaign

Literacy and reading are important in every facet of children’s growth, and two Bayonne organizations are forging an improved literacy campaign and a summer camp that will benefit not only preschoolers, but school-aged youngsters as well.
The literacy campaign kicks off this summer with a two-week camp patterned after the one launched in 2013 by the Department of Community Development, Bayonne Board of Education, the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF), and the Bayonne Division of Recreation.


“This was developed basically out of recognizing that virtually everything a child learns in life stems from literacy and being able to comprehend the world around them.” – Samantha Howard


That program was targeted at pre-kindergarten children to increase their vocabularies by word exposure. Its second purpose was to provide city high school students with learning service hours during their summer break.
This year’s program is again being sponsored by the BEOF and the recreation division. But it is a refined version of the organization’s former Literacy Camp, with a new objective of promoting early childhood literacy through family participation, according to BEOF Executive Director Samantha Howard.
What was formerly just for pre-kindergarten children will be expanded for students up to the fifth and sixth grades. High school students will still have the service opportunity.
“This was developed basically out of recognizing that virtually everything a child learns in life stems from literacy and being able to comprehend the world around them,” Howard said.
Literacy crosses academic boundaries.
“There’s always a need to monitor that students are prepared going into the school system,” Howard said. “Literacy is the key to that. It has to do with reading and comprehension. Even with math and science, those literacy and reading needs are there.”
It is a positive domino effect, according to Howard, that a child with greater word exposure
and thinking skills results in a child who functions better.
The program was designed by professional educators and will be overseen by a director. Though the idea for the summer camp was her brainchild, Howard said its design came from her husband, Dr. Thomas Howard Jr., an educator, and Stacey Bailey, a special education teacher at Mary J. Donohoe School on 5th Street. Bailey will be the program director.
“This is the first literacy camp with a professionally and uniquely designed curriculum,” Howard said.
The program is highly structured and incorporates fun into learning.
“It’s really a new take on it,” Bailey said. “It’s using everyday experiences to show children there’s reading all around us.”
The camp will use an Olympics theme to promote effort and achievement. There will also be daily themes, including music, science, nature, and community.
“We’re creating the thought of literacy champions,” Bailey said.
Each year, there will be additions to the program and the themes will change.
“It’s something new for me, being able to help develop it was very exciting,” Bailey said. “I’m not sure where it’s going to go. I’m just excited that it’s something new.”

Benefits for high school students

And though the youngest students will benefit from the campaign and this camp in particular, the high school-aged ones have a lot to gain as well.
“The high school kids will partner with educators conducting the sessions,” Howard said. “They will be gaining the professional skill set to see what a teacher does, and of course gaining the learning service hours.”
Those service hours contribute toward students’ graduation. Up to 15 to 20 can be earned through the program.
The two-week camp fee is $50 per child, which goes toward administrative costs.
Classes will be held at the Bayonne Head Start on 9th Street, with child drop off and pick up at the Bayonne Community Museum nearby on Broadway.
To register or for more information, call the Division of Recreation at (201) 858-6129.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at comment on this story online visit

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