Students improve reading skills at church day camp

PARKERSBURG – Day campers at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church are working to improve their reading skills this week.

The church’s Reading Camp has 15 students receiving nearly one-on-one instruction.

Majorie Bevans, rector of the church, said the reading camp is part of a nationwide effort hosted by local Episcopal churches and dioceses, with funding from The Roanridge Fund. The weeklong camps are held for students who are rising second-, third- and fourth-graders struggling with reading skills.

These particular children are at high risk for falling farther and farther behind in their education, Bevans said.

The camp is coordinated by Linda Crocker and Sandy Tharp, a teacher at Lubeck Elementary.

This is the first year of Reading Camp for the Parkersburg area. Campers receive 15 hours of intensive literacy instruction from volunteers, are taken on field trips, have special guest readers and play games using words and letters.

On Tuesday Marc Harshman, West Virginia’s poet laureate and author of 11 picture books for children, made a presentation to the children and read to them. The children received autographed copies of one of Harshman’s books.

Coordinators are using a railroad theme for this year’s camp. The railroad theme for the Parkersburg Reading Camp was chosen because of the prevalence and influence of railroads in West Virginia history. The campers will learn about the legend of John Henry and train tunnels, names of railroads and types of railroad cars. The special theme for Friday is the book “The Polar Express,” which the children will receive in their backpacks. That day the campers will be dressed for cold weather and enjoy hot chocolate as they finish the week by watching the movie based on the book.

Bevans said at the end of the week each camper will be given a backpack full of new books they get to choose from a temporary library of children’s books on a wide variety of topics that might stimulate their interest in reading. The campers will take a tour of the public library and obtain a library card.

“I hope the kids get something our of this week,” she said. “There’s a lot of one-on-one attention. The teachers are really getting to know the kids and stimulate their desire to read.”

Officials plan to hold the camp again next summer.