[Episcopal News Service – Pine Mountain, Kentucky] Being able to read well is a basic skill that not every young student masters. That lack of mastery can lead to a lifetime of low achievement – and poverty.
That is the basic premise of Reading Camp, an 11-year-old ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. In addition to breaking the cycle of poverty by helping young children avoid a lifetime of illiteracy, the camps also aim to build self-confidence and teach campers about their local heritage. Thus, campers get a jump-start on being contributing members of their families and their communities.
The Reading Camp ministry helps run camps all over the world and close to home. Each week-long camp, some of them sleep-away and some day camps, is built on a combination of interdisciplinary learning – sometimes masqueraded as play – and activities such as hikes, games and crafts. Staff members are all volunteers and serve in roles such as teachers, counselors, nurses and administrators. Some volunteers come back year after year.
On Dec. 3, the Episcopal Church announced that the program had received $20,000 to further its work. The grant was one of nine Roanridge Trust Award Grants made for 2014.
Recently, Episcopal News Service spent time at the annual Reading Camp held in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. The school itself, founded in 1913 as boarding school for mountain children and as a settlement serving the community through economic, health and cultural initiatives, has for the last 30 years provided instruction in environmental education and traditional arts and culture to thousands of students.
Alpha Sigma Tau sorority has supported the work of the Pine Mountain Settlement School since 1945 through financial donations as well as volunteer work. During this year’s Reading Camp, sorority collegiate and alumnae members were part of the volunteer staff, some of them for the first time.
The 2013 Pine Mountain Reading Camp week was the last for then-Executive Director Allison Duvall before she joined the staff of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) as program manager for co-sponsorship and church relations. Michelle Sjogren of Lexington was recently called to be the new executive director of Reading Camp.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.