POTTSVILLE — A summer camp designed to improve reading skills will return with in-person sessions this year.

It will take place July 12-16 at Trinity Episcopal Church on South Centre Street and include classes in phonics, reading comprehension, writing skills and math, along with other activities and a guest reader each day.

Free meals will be given to all student participants.

Activities will be centered around this year’s camp theme, bugs. There will also be a trip to the Pottsville Free Public Library and a presentation by Leah Zerbe, owner of Potter’s Farm in Pine Grove, on insects.

In addition, participants will be given book packets and a “super reader” sheet to mark down how many books they read, with donated gift certificates from McDonald’s and Dairy Queen as prizes. The program will conclude with a parent luncheon and workshop, where educational items will be handed out.

Coordinator Barbara Tokarz said the camp, an outreach ministry of the church that has been held since 2018, targets children in Title I reading programs, with students referred to it by reading specialists, mainly in the Pottsville Area and Saint Clair Area school districts. They also come to it through the Pre-K Counts and Head Start programs at Child Development Inc. Students in it are in grades K-3 and are split up by grade level.

This year marks the first year the camp is being held in person since 2019. Last year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers and teachers in the program distributed learning materials and groceries to participants in the driveway leading to the chapel at Baber Cemetery.

Precautions are being taken with this year’s camp. It is running at half-capacity of participants, with 15 this year, compared to the 30 to 32 involved in past years. Face masks will be required and there will be extra hand washing and sanitation.

Nine teacher volunteers are assisting, most of whom are retired educators, along with a nurse, youth members of Trinity and other county residents, some of whom are from the North Parish, which encompasses St. John Episcopal Church in Ashland and Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Saint Clair.

In addition to the camp, Trinity is participating in the “Lunches for Learners” program, which provides free lunches to students, courtesy of Bake Shop VI in Pottsville. Parishioners contributed monetarily to the program.

Tokarz said she is “really happy” the camp is being held this year, adding it is a way for children to catch up on reading skills without the pressures of school. It is also a way for children to make friends, which she said they look forward to seeing, and to build self-esteem.

“The kids get more out of it (in person),” Tokarz said. “They don’t have to worry about grades, they can just have fun.”

The camp is funded by grants from the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, the Snayberger Foundation and the Benevolent Association of Pottsville.

Contact the writer:; 570-628-6028