Camp gets students ready for school

Published 6:51 pm Monday, June 10, 2019

This month rising Pre-K and kindergarten students are working to improve their reading skills at Success By 6’s Summer Play Camps.

United Way’s Success By 6 program focuses on making sure that children are prepared to enter school by helping instill skills needed for students’ first years in school. In addition to improving literacy, the program also helps children learn to follow directions in a group setting, spend time away from parents and includes basic math and science.

“We’ve been doing this 14 years, and it is just amazing to see how much these children learn in just 20 days,” said Patty Youngblood, president and executive director of United Way West Georgia. “It is just such a wonderful opportunity for children this age to come and have such a warm environment, learn to be away from their parents for a little while, follow the rules. As much as it is educational, it is also socialization and learning how to follow directions, learning how to participate.”

This year the camp is broken into one week segments, in order to make it easier for parents who want to coordinate with church camps and other summer activities. However, the camp’s focus is the same as it has been from day one — getting students reading ready.

“Our big focus is to not let them go down the summer slide, and [we] focus on reading and encourage reading,” said Gail Gordon, the Success by 6 coordinator.

“We’ve set up a little summer play library, so that they can check out books or read them at home. Once they read 10, they can bring this [reading log] back and go to the prize box.”

Throughout the month of June, the campers will participate in activities related to Eric Litwin’s popular Pete the Cat series.

“The whole month-long theme is Pete the Cat, so the first one was ‘Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons,’” Gordon said. “That is the reason for the shirts and the little cat [hats].”

Additionally, the students learned a few words in sign language to go with one of their camp week songs.

“I’ve taught them some sign language, and the main song that I taught them is about friends,” said Pam Vaughn, a parent educator.

The Success By 6 program was initially founded in coordination with the school system, and it received financial support from the City of LaGrange for years. Now, the program is funded exclusively through United Way, making local support more important than ever.

“Community support helps everything United Way does,” Youngblood said. “Success by 6 is an initiative that we do that focuses on early learning.”

For some, community support can be the deciding factor to determine whether or not their 5 and 6-year-olds can attend the camp, which does charge a small fee.

“It makes it so that we can give scholarships and provide to those people that cannot,” Gordon said. “Plus, it helps us buy the materials and keeps the cost down for the parents.”

Youngblood said that the camp’s main expenses come from paying certified teachers and supplies.