Developing literacy skills is more than just reading a book.

Participants in the Cities in Schools Summer Day Camp take part in daily literacy activities with Vanessa Jimenez, who will be teaching English as a Second Language for Ardmore City Schools beginning in the fall.

Jimenez has a range of activities that correspond with the children's age level and keeps them engaged with learning.

"It's crucial that kids don't see reading as punishment, but as fun," Jimenez said.

The program is a part of the CIS goal to improve literacy skills of participants, and so far, it seems to be working.

"They are always engaged in the class," said Sara Kerley, CIS executive director.

Jimenez also incorporates other languages into her lessons. Students learn phrases in Spanish, French, Chinese and sign language.

"If students know it, we will do it," Jimenez said. "They will know a lot of phrases by the end of the summer."

Flash cards with a variety of words on them are used to play the game Bazinga. The children are divided into teams and choose creative names like Rainbow Kittens or Awesomeness. Teams are given five cards and race to put them in alphabetical order. For an added challenge, children also race to create sentences using the randomly drawn words.

Older students have also assumed pen names in order to write to a secret pen pal from another group.

The letters must include half a page of writing and half a page of illustration. They are given topics to discuss such as comparing a year-around school schedule to the calendar they currently have with summers off.

The anonymity of the exercise is a drawback for some children.

"I don't like not knowing who is writing to me. It's driving me crazy," said fifth-grader Sarah Carlson.

Campers keep journals in which they respond to a daily prompt, such as "what would you do if you were the last person on earth."

"That was my favorite one," Carlson said. "I would eat a lot of candy and ice cream and get new clothes and eat a lot of chocolate because everything would be free."

Depending on their reading level, Jimenez will either read to the children or have them read to her.

Fifth-graders are reading "Holes" by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith together as a class.

"It's fun because I like reading," said fifth-grader Abi Stringfellow.

According to Jimenez, "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" has been a favorite tale for many of the younger readers.

"They like to talk about how the wolf is an OK guy and it was really the three little pigs who were bad. It's a change to the story they know," Jimenez said.

Preschoolers will practice writing the letters of the alphabet and short words on marker boards.

"I like writing words because I already know some," said preschooler Teddy Pfau.

They show that one is never too young to enjoy reading.

"I like to do reading and do letters. I like A because it is my favorite. It's first," said preschooler Maria President.