The Camp Sharigan Project – a supplementary reading program for children in first through third grade who need help in reading – will return this month.

Dr. Elaine Clanton Harpine has offered the yearlong camp in Aiken for the past five years at no cost to the families. The intent is to help children who are struggling with reading, she said.

“I started working with children in 2001,” Clanton Harpine said. “I focus on phonemic awareness – the sounds that letters represent ... and how to decode those sounds.”

She cites the letter “A,” which has 17 combinations of sound in connection with other vowels. She uses a method called vowel-clustering to help children learn to read more productively. Over the years, she worked with a child who thought he would never read. By the end of the year, he was reading chapter books, Clanton Harpine said.

She has become a prominent figure in neuroimaging, which relates how the brain actually works.

“I find it fascinating for students who are struggling and don't have the synaptic structures,” Clanton Harpine said. “What we are trying to do is rebuild those structures, the white matter of the brain. We are doing an approach to teach children those sounds.”

Since the program began, Clanton Harpine has partnered with USC Aiken. As in recent years, professors Dr. Keri Weed and Dr. Meredith Elzy will send their psychology students to work with the children.

“I realize the value of service learning for our students,” Weed said. “It's really hard to get our students in community placements at the undergraduate level.”

There's a strong psychological component for children who struggle with reading, she said. It can affect their self-esteem, because reading is so valued. If they can't read as well as other students, they don't want to read.

For the psychology students, it's not just working on reading with the children, “but to build their confidence so that reading can be fun,” Weed said.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.

More information

• The Camp Sharigan Project

• Participants sought from grades first through third

• Site: St. John's United Methodist Church

• Schedule: Sept. 15 through May 7, 4 to 6 p.m. Monday and Thursday

• The registration deadline is Sunday, Sept. 14. Interested parents may email Elaine Clanton Harpine at, or call 803-593-4988.

• Fees: There is no charge for afternoon sessions and testing.