Keeping knowledge fresh

Church, school partnership keeps kids reading over the summer
Jul. 22, 2014 @ 06:30 PM

A local church has established its own summer reading program.

Flat Rock United Methodist Church teamed up with E.O. Young Elementary School to help students struggling to read.

Participants visit the school once a week — on Tuesday or Thursday — to work on comprehension and phonics and engage in story and outdoor time.

“They don’t argue about doing it either,” said Karen Reece, Vance County Schools’ lead social worker.

The program runs for seven weeks, ending Aug. 8.

Reece said volunteers tap students’ imaginations by asking questions and applying stories to their life.

Allen Williams said the camp has helped him become a better reader, preparing him for the third grade.

“I think this program is helping because I have fun,” he said. “I read, and I learn.”

Brittany Shefter, a Duke divinity student and Flat Rock summer intern, said more than a dozen volunteers come through each week — all from the church — to work with students.

“So far, it’s been a blessing to the volunteers,” she said. “They love being involved, and they love working with the kids.”

Reece said only two volunteers actually work in the school system.

“One is a teacher; the other is a teacher assistant,” she said. “Other than that, nobody is a teacher here, but we want to these children succeed. As a school social worker, one of the things I focus on is school attendance and keeping these kids on track so they won’t drop out. This is an excellent stepping stone to reaching that goal.”

Flat Rock pastor the Rev. Cathy Hoyle said she approached E.O. Young administrators about creating some kind of camp to keep students from falling behind during the summer and to build a relationship with the school, for which the church already conducts a backpack buddies meals project.

Reece said administrators supported the idea and recruited struggling students from each class to participate.

Flat Rock received a $1,500 grant from United Way to transport kids to and from the camp.

Hoyle said the project came together smoothly.

“Everything has just gone so well, and I really think we were directed by God to do this,” she said.

Both groups hope to continue the program in the years to come.

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.