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The ABCs of summer camp

| Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Uniontown has a mission this summer -- to keep kids reading.

The church is holding its second annual summer reading camp, which runs through the end of July.

Camp personnel want to help hone the basic reading skills of children who have completed the first or second grades of school.

"We have had great cooperation from the Uniontown school district," said John Sharp, coordinator. Sharp said all elementary schools were contacted and asked for input and recommendations for the program.

"We received a good number of referrals that way," said Sharp.

"This started about five years ago when a group of Presbyterian churches in Fayette County wanted to come up with ways to reach children at risk," Sharp said. "We wanted to address the reading needs of the children that aren't on track by their third year of school."

Trinity United Presbyterian Church applied for and received a grant to get the program running.

Last year the program worked with 10 children. This year that number has more than doubled, with 22 children attending the weekly camp.

"We had to cut it off at 22," Sharp said. "We had some great feedback from last year, and this year we literally had parents calling us and begging us to include their children in the program."

The reading camp is being directed by Amy Murphy, who has a staff of six high school and college students.

Before the camp started, Murphy set up the program's structure, by assessing each student's individual weaknesses and needs.

"Amy is responsible for planning the program," Sharp said. "She assesses all the children and then develops individual learning plans for each of the children, and there is a tutor or student helper for every three children that are in the camp."

The camp features a weekly theme. Reading time, games and even snack time is devoted to the theme.

"They'll read the book 'Peanut Butter and Jelly' to the students then make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for them at snack time," Sharp said.

The camp is held in the lower level Bible study area of the church that is decorated as an elaborate rainforest.

"The idea is for the children to make progress," Sharp said. "We had some children enrolled last year who could not even say their ABCs. We also want to work with their confidence so they will feel more comfortable reading in front of others. We want to see their confidence levels grow."

The program was open to all Uniontown area children and is free for those attending.

The instructors will work with each child's personal interests, helping them locate materials, with the hope that they will wish to read more about their interests.

"This is a fast and furious three weeks," Sharp said. "They have to figure out where each student is, and then help and encourage them to keep going."

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