by The Rev. Susan Heath
The freedom to choose a new book to keep every day for a week, catching your first fish, swimming and canoeing on the lake, picking tomatoes and squash that will become part of your dinner, reading a great book with a crowd of new friends and having the story come to life through activities inspired by the book’s action, arts and crafts, cooking a meal featured in the book. This is a list of some of what makes Camp AIR a fun filled week for the children who come and the adults and young people who work with them.
Camp AIR is a collaboration between Gravatt Camp and Conference Center and the SC Bishops’ Public Education Initiative. The purpose of the camp is to offer children who are reading below grade level after 4th or 5th grade a place to build confidence and reading skills in the fun setting of residential summer camp. One of the goals is to encourage a love of reading in the campers. Another goal is to give camper of the joys of childhood that are in the DNA of a place like Gravatt.
Each morning campers rotate through three reading stations led by South Carolina certified teachers. The stations are designed to build reading and writing ability. The setting is more flexible than a school day may provide.There is lots of laughter. Campers receive attention and encouragement not only from the teachers but also from their teenaged counselors who attend and participate in these sessions. The value of having a ten-year-old inspired by a 17-year-old to read,read,read is beyond measure. The book chosen for the week’s theme is read aloud over the session.Counselors take their turn in reading aloud to their campers. Counselors come up with games and evening activities drawn from the story.Campers fall in love with the story by taking it off the page.The book becomes part of camp conversation and lore.
In the afternoon campers experience the full range of camp activities . For some children this is their first time away from home. For many, it is their first experience of overnight camp. This camp also provides a way for counselors to understand some challenges they may never face themselves. These are orchestrated relationships.Folks with no other avenue to meet become friends. Everybody learns and grows
Camp AIR is a nonbudgeted program made possible by the in-kind gifts of Camp Gravatt and the generosity of churches and individuals who share a vision for making sure all our children have the free time to read and learn to read well.
Contributions can be made to Camp Gravatt marked for Camp AIR.
* AIR is an acronym for "Adventures In Reading." The goals and activities of the camp were described to a group of children in Columbia. When asked what they would call such a camp,the children proposed Camp AIR . Intrigued by the concept, they also asked if they could come. The name stuck.