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Brookstone Summer Camp Supports Charlotte Readers

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Three nursery tables are busy. Four children build bridges for the Three gruff billy goats, others build houses for The three little pigs, and the third group uses manipulators to sequence Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?

“The foundation of literacy is understanding the relationship between words and their meaning both literally and visually,” says their teacher, Mary Snoke.

“Basic reading comprehension involves participating in the telling of a story using pictures from a given book. A deeper understanding of a text is developed when the child can visualize the ideas of a story and apply them through creative expression … These activities have enabled students to relate, to design creatively, to understand relationships cause and effect and develop problem-solving skills. This is literacy 101.

The literacy camp develops understanding and aims to prevent summer learning loss

Innovative activities like this are the hallmark of Brookstone Schools’ Straight to the Top Summer Literacy Camp, which strives to prevent the ‘learning loss’ that often occurs during the summer. , especially for students without access to books or reading.

The camp provided five weeks of fun, games, learning and ongoing support during the summer months to 123 students from up-and-coming Kindergarten to up-and-coming 8th grade students in downtown Charlotte. Its main goal is to teach early literacy skills to rising kindergarten students, accelerate reading fluency, improve comprehension skills of all students, and build motivation and love for books.

“Research shows that students lose two to three months during the summer and the learning loss is cumulative over the years they are in school,” said Suzanne Wilson, Director of Major Gifts at Brookstone . “However, summer camp keeps their minds engaged and allows them to read. Pre- and post-tests show that, on average, our campers gain at least one month to six weeks in fluent reading each summer. This summer’s camp is even more beneficial, as it will help students recover some of the learning loss that may have occurred during this COVID year. “

Providing quality education for twenty years

Brookstone Schools, which opened in 2001, is a non-denominational Christian school integrating a biblical worldview into quality education for underprivileged families in Charlotte. Its students are academically, socially and spiritually equipped for future lives of leadership and service.

The Mebane Foundation has supported Brookstone since 2012 when it awarded the school a three-year grant to start the Straight to the Top summer literacy camp. Since then, the Foundation has invested nearly half a million dollars in this inspiring program. This year, the Foundation provided a grant of $ 85,000 to support the camp, subsidize a reading specialist to provide teacher training and classroom supervision, and fund diagnostic tests for reading difficulties by a psychologist. licensed clinician.

“Brookstone Schools has been a superstar in our grantee portfolio since I met Suzanne in 2012,” said Larry Colbourne, President of the Mebane Foundation. “They continue to lead by example. The families and children who have benefited from their holistic approach to education have been extremely fortunate. All that to say ; Brookstone is never satisfied and is always looking for new ways to support his family and get better. With John taking over as the most recent principal, I think Brookstone’s future is brighter than ever.

Wilson is grateful for the support, “The strategic philanthropy of the Mebane Foundation has been a game-changer for Brookstone over the years. Funding for programming and training has enabled Brookstone to develop a strong reading program, which produces lasting excellent results year after year.

Brookstone Schools Camp contributes to student confidence and fluency

The camp was held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., from June 14 to July 15. The mornings were devoted to three hours of targeted reading instruction with the following objectives:

  1. Giving aspiring kindergarten students a boost in learning to listen and developing early reading skills such as letter recognition, phonemic awareness, and name writing.
  2. Strengthen students’ reading fluency to improve their comprehension and increase their overall ability to see themselves as confident readers.
  3. Provide children who have had few opportunities to interact with books a literacy-rich classroom in the summer to encourage them to read good books.

Teaching for elementary school students focused on acquiring early reading skills such as phonemic awareness, decoding phonemes, words, sentences, and reading age-appropriate texts. Elementary and secondary school teachers helped students practice fluency, comprehension skills and strategies. Time was allotted daily for silent reading and spelling practice.

The afternoons included an extra hour of tutoring and a variety of enrichment activities. Local churches organized a holiday Bible school, and volunteers offered a wide range of activities, including arts and crafts, music, and outdoor games. Middle school students participated in Mission Possible, a Christian urban community outreach and mission program. This summer, adults served alongside youth to help those in need at Harvest Center, Bright Blessings and Dove’s Nest.

“What a beautiful thing it was to see how our high school students gave back to the community this summer,” Wilson said. “This is the eighth summer that Davidson United Methodist Church has run a service-oriented program for teens at our camp. The children of Brookstone learn first-hand that although your resources are limited, missionary work is not impossible. You can always donate your time and heart to help others.

More than academics

Newly entering Brookstone students are required to attend the summer camp free of charge, which introduces their families to both the benefits and the rigor of the program.

“The summer camp gives families a certain ‘skin in the game’ and gives our teachers the opportunity to meet new students and begin to assess their needs,” explained the school principal. John Murray, who joined the school in July 2020.

These needs are often more than academic. During his tenure, Murray extended the school-wide educational approach to the whole child, including adopting a trauma-informed pedagogical approach that takes into account the impact of trauma on learning. and behavior. This was especially timely given the negative impact COVID has had on the stability and well-being of families.

“Trauma can slow down or completely stop our ability to learn. Traumatized children are more likely to fall behind in class or have behavioral problems, ”Murray said. “The social, emotional and mental health needs of our students must also be met for them to learn. “

Research has shown that children with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) have more difficulty learning and participating in school, with language development, communication, attendance and academic excellence. They are more likely to drop out prematurely or choose not to pursue higher education.

Last year, all teachers took ACES training to help them better identify signs of distress in children and give them strategies to meet those needs in the classroom.

Additionally, the school received a grant to provide trauma counseling and therapy services through Christ-Centered Community Counseling (C4), an urban counseling and mental health awareness practice. If needed, counselors also provide families with referrals to organizations that can help them with rent, utilities, and food. They had a workload of 33 at the end of the first month. This year, the school will also add a nurse to the staff.

“Over the past six months, we have seen the lives of many students improve because of the important work of C4,” said Murray. “With the addition of a full-time nurse, as well as our partnership with the Mebane Foundation, we look forward to seeing our students grow spiritually, socially, academically, this coming school year.”

Jeanne Blanche

Jeanna White is a writer for the Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville. Ten years as a substitute teacher for preschool to high school students have given her a unique perspective and a passion for education. White graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.