June 23, 2008

Reading Camp in Uniontown Builds Skills

By Mark Hofmann

A Uniontown Summer Reading Camp is in its fourth year of bringing children up to speed with their reading and writing skills.

John Sharp, a retired minister for Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Uniontown and coordinator of the camp, said three years ago there was talk about the camp's need because children were falling behind with their reading skills in school, especially first- and second-graders.

"If you don't acquire adequate reading skills by the third grade, you're in trouble," Sharp said.

With a grant from the Presbyterian Women, and cooperation from the Christian Literacy Associates of Pittsburgh, the teachers and reading specialists in the Uniontown Area School District, the Summer Reading Camp started three years ago.

The reading camp runs three weeks in the summer, three days a week, from 9 a.m. to noon at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Uniontown, and contains approximately 15 children. With the children is a certified teacher as the reading camp's director as well as college and high school students helping as aids.

Kristen Smith, a substitute teacher for the Uniontown Area School District, is director of this year's camp. She said the teachers of the reading and writing at-risk students have stepped up, provided information and helped develop plans for their students.

To create a greater impact on the students and make the camp seem less like a classroom, the students are separated into groups of two or three at specialized centers with the aids. The students are taught different skills for reading, writing, listening (phonics), and will rotate to the different lessons throughout the day.

"It's a great thing to have one teacher for every two students," Smith said.

Sharp said the presence of the college and high school students as aids has been beneficial to the children and the aids; the children look at the aids as role models and it also gives the aids an idea of what the teaching profession offers if they're choosing to go into that field.

Sharp added that activities like having the children write their own stories and then read them out loud has also built confidence with the students.

"Often, the at-risk students had low self-confidence," Sharp said. He was happy to add that he has seen much improvement with the students.

Sharp also expressed gratitude of the school district's cooperation with the summer reading camp.

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