Lucky 7 for reading camp

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By Sarah Kingon

“If you can move out of your normal experiences and add emotion and fun to learning, you will be more likely to retain the knowledge,” said Reading Camp Coordinator Kary McConnachie. This is the philosophy that inspires those who brought together this year’s seventh annual reading camp that ran from 29 June to 6th July.

Some of the camp volunteers.

Some of the camp volunteers.

The camp sponsors 18 talented children between the ages of nine and 11 from 14 primary schools in the Grahamstown township areas to participate in a week of improving their English and reading skills, through workshops and entertainment.

The camp coordinators ask 14 local schools to submit a list of four of their “brightest, shining stars and future leaders” from which camp coordinators select 18 children they believe will benefit the most from the week away.

“Our hope is that the children will absorb their newfound knowledge and share it with their classmates, neighbours and families,” said McConnachie.

They also signed up 18 adult volunteers, including Rhodes education students, brothers from the monastery, lecturers, teachers and retirees.

The campers and all their volunteers.

The campers and all their volunteers.

Some of the main cogs in the machine include Marian Walwyn, former Principal at Oatlands Preparatory, who does the catering for the camp; Matt Kellen, an American-trained teacher who is doing his M Ed; Brother Daniel Ludick from the monastery; Ntombekaya Myeki, a teacher at Holy Cross School who is a founder member of reading camp; Basil Mills, who works for the National English Literary Museum; and Mary Jane Amick, a qualified nursing sister from Kentucky, who flies out every year for the camp. Amick also raises half of the funding needed for the camp to continue. Other funds come from a range of sources, which vary each year.

The programme includes a structured morning of workshops including pleasure reading, comprehension, writing, reading strategies, phonics, and decoding and encoding.

A camp team.

A camp team.

Afternoon programmes include authors’ visits, obstacle courses, game drives, elephant sanctuary visits and historical walks on the beach. Evenings are reserved for games.

The camp hosts a reunion day in November, to which previous and current campers are invited. “One of the girls [from a previous camp] said to us that the week changed her life perspective. From that moment she decided she would be a success. She now loves writing, reading and poetry and she puts it down to reading camp,” said McConnachie.

Teachers at participating schools complement the reading club’s success. They said children grow in confidence and develop an enthusiasm for reading after the camp.

A volunteer reads to children as part of a morning reading workshop.

A volunteer reads to children as part of a morning reading workshop.

The idea of a reading camp was started in America, where the founding coordinators of the Grahamstown camp received their training.

McConnachie hopes that in the future they will be able to raise sufficient funding to send volunteers back to America to be re-inspired.

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16 thoughts on “Lucky 7 for reading camp

  1. I really liked this story. As someone who has lived in Grahamstown for the past 2 and a half years, I find it really heart-warming that opportunities like this are being offered to Grahamstown residents. I think this reading camp is definitely worth the coverage given to it here.

  2. This is a lovely piece because it shows that there is some good in a town where education is all bad. However, as this was published only after the training camp, it would have been better to say how it went as opposed to a preview piece which is what this is sitting on right now. It would have been stronger if had spoken to students who went and how they found the training camp. Where was it and was it successful in improving their English skills/ marks? The ‘so what’ here was more about the fact children from Grahamstown East were being helped and how they found their experience rather than another “this is what Grahamstown West is doing to help people in need” story again. Could be a nice follow up! Good work!

  3. I really enjoyed the pictures in this story. I know you weren’t able to be there in person, but is there any audio or video of the camp? I think this story lends itself to multimedia treatment.
    It’s interesting that the kids are being ‘invested in’ as future leaders in their communities. Many literacy programmes are ‘remedial’, but this one takes the opposite approach!

  4. The pictures added to a story that was very well-written. The information was clear and coherent and also relevant given the importance of literacy in South Africa. It is cool that something like this is available to develop young people and it was great to report on its impact and success.

  5. So lovely to see that people in the Grahamstown community are working to better the lives of others. Great feel good piece/ Would have been nice to get a gallery as the pictures really add to the post.

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