Reading camp prepares students
Reading Camp started as a secular day camp in the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. It quickly spread to other Episcopal churches across the state, the country and the world. This is Grace Episcopal Church's sixth year hosting the camp.
Twenty students from Clark, McNabb, Farley and Morgan elementary schools attend the camp as rising 3rd-5th graders. Retired licensed teachers and volunteers from Grace Episcopal, First Presbyterian Broadway United Methodist, Fountain Avenue and Westminster Presbyterian churches teach the students, organize activities, coordinate food and provide resources such as buses, playground toys and swimming pool access.
The camp consists of enrichment classes and field trips. Enrichments stations include creative writing, phonics, sight words, drama, pleasure reading and comprehension.
"We try to make it fun," said Dabney Haugh, chairwoman of Grace Episcopal Church's Reading Camp. "A lot of stations use games and hands-on activities. There are two teachers for four children in each station. Being able to work almost one-on-one really makes a difference."
One of the activities new to the camp this year uses physical exercises such as dancing, stomping and rolling to jump-start the brain in relation to reading.
"Based on brain research of how a child learns, these activities that look like exercise takes body movement and relates it to learning," said Jessiann McCarthy, the Christian Education Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church and a camp volunteer teacher. "There's sequencing, focusing, focus of the eye, sitting still. Some of these skills are not innate. When you're learning to read, you have to do a whole sequence of things at once. You can't divorce the body from the brain."
In addition to classes, there are music lessons, swimming at Broadway United Methodist Church and field trips each afternoon.
"It's a packed day," said Haugh. "In the past we've had story tellers and guest speakers come to speak about things we are learning about in relation to our theme that year."
This year's theme is animals, incorporating field trips to Project Hope "No-Kill" Animal Shelter, Four Rivers Sport Horse Center, Land Between the Lakes Nature Station and fishing at Noble Park.
The camp is funded mostly by donations as well as a small grant the church received a few years ago. Campers will receive their own backpacks at the end of the camp filled with donated school supplies.
Local middle and high school students volunteer as camp counselors. A senior counselor is usually a high school student, and a junior counselor is a former camper who must have completed at least one year of middle school.
"It's an honor to be chosen," said Haugh. "They must be mature, and they know how things operate since they have gone to the camp. It's a win-win."
Anna Reed, an 8th-grader at Paducah Middle School, said being a junior counselor is "pretty awesome."
"You get to see what it is like being a camper and helping the campers," she said.
Her younger sister, Addison Reed, a fourth-grader at McNabb Elementary School, said, "Stuff can be challenging. I learned new sight words, new games and about drama. My favorites are drama, swimming and field trips."
Anesia Griffith, a 5th-grader at Clark Elementary School, said, "I love having fun here. I like drama because we can dress up." She said she also enjoyed writing a poem about herself in creative writing and playing outside with the senior counselors.
Each camper and their parents are given a "reading contract" at the beginning of the week to sign, which states that they will read together at least 10 minutes a day during the week.
"If you have a child who is struggling with reading, take 10 minutes a day to read to your child or have them read to you," Haugh said. "Let the child choose the book because if they're interested, they'll take off. I know everyone is busy, but I think parents will be amazed at the difference it makes."
Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655