• by Sarah McCarren

Gulf Breeze parish conducts Reading Camp for area students


St. Francis, Gulf Breeze, held a week-long reading camp for area children during the last week in July. Gulf Breeze Reading Camp was a free day camp geared toward helping struggling readers from local schools. The campers, according to Dottie Kilpatrick, camp director, were aged 8 to 10 and were referred by a teacher or guidance counselor. The students had to be at least one grade level behind in reading skills to qualify for the camp.

"The idea came from the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, Reading Camp Network,” Kilpatrick said. “I read about it in a newsletter and applied to be a reading teacher at the overnight camp in southeastern Kentucky. I taught for a week in 2009 and 2010. I brought the idea back to St. Francis. More details are at www.readingcamprocks.org. This year we became an independent camp, although we still follow the Lexington model."

An outreach ministry of the St. Francis parish, this was the camp’s third year. Children spent the mornings rotating between centers aimed at improving their reading skills. Volunteer teachers and assistants showed the students that reading could be fun, utilizing a variety of activities such as drama and games. The campers put on a drama based on Tristan de Luna's first landing in Pensacola in 1559. In addition to attending fluency, writing, and comprehension centers, the children read one-on-one with volunteers from the parish and community.

Afternoons held day camp activities such as outdoor games and crafts. Trained teenaged camp counselors from area high schools volunteered to shepherd the children in the afternoon, while serving as positive role models. The camp culminated in a field trip to the Florida Archeology Network Museum in Pensacola, where campers toured the museum and learned what archeologists do and how their work preserves Florida's history.

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