Rock Hill school, church, volunteers partner to host summer reading camp

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJuly 11, 2013 

Every morning, Monday through Thursday, the fellowship hall at Boyd Hill Baptist Church fills with young children.

They act like children do, darting from friend to friend, unable to sit still or stay quiet.

But then a volunteer ushers the children to the collection of small carpets along one wall, opens a book and begins to read.

The day has begun at the “Summer Safari” reading camp, the brainchild of Jerry Seale and York Road Elementary School.

For two hours each day, a group of 25 to 35 children comes and learns, listening to stories, working on reading and comprehension skills, applying and talking about what they’re reading, and even eating a snack, making crafts and doing exercises.

“They love it and they’re so engaged,” said Patty Domenick, a teacher at York Road Elementary, where most of the camp’s attendees go to school.

Seale, who’s a former teacher and coach, said he wanted to create a program that targeted students in kindergarten through second grade, to help reduce the summer “learning lag” when many students lose what skills they gained during the course of the school year, particularly reading.

“If a child can’t read, he can’t do anything,” Seale said.

After establishing a partnership with York Road Elementary, Seale said Boyd Hill Baptist Church volunteered to let the program use its facility. In addition to promoting the program, York Road Elementary also gave the program books to use that are on the students’ grade levels and let the program use a bus so students without transportation wouldn’t be hindered from participating.

“Everyone’s been very cooperative because they know how important reading is,” he said.

Seale said the program tried to target students who were struggling in their reading, so they could try to get them back on track.

“It’s such a great opportunity for these children who are struggling readers,” Domenick said.

The program is staffed by teachers, such as Domenick, and local middle and high school students. Seale said they all give up their own summer to help the children.

One young volunteer, Raynelle Benson, 13, said she wants to be a kindergarten teacher one day.

“I’ve always loved being around kids and helping kids,” she said.

Another, Maddie Harr, 13, said the best part of volunteering was watching the kids learn every day.

“They all progress really well, and they’re all so sweet,” she said.

This summer, the city of Rock Hill and the Rock Hill Schools, along with other local organizations, partnered to promote a reading initiative called “Rock Hill Reads.” The program’s goal was to get every person in Rock Hill reading for at least 20 minutes a day. The volunteers at Summer Safari and Seale said every day the kids in this program are reading for more than an hour.

At the end of each day, the students can select four books to take home with them overnight.

“You can read it to your parents or to yourself,” said Quindarius Thompson, a Summer Safari participant.

He’ll be entering the second grade next month, and his favorite books are about superheroes and adventures.

“I like reading so I can be smart,” he said.

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Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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