Summer is the time of year when Vacation Bible School is held all over the county at local churches.

But one church decided to do something a little different this year.

Daniels Memorial United Methodist Church combined VBS with a reading camp to helps promote literacy and help prevent "summer slide."

Jenny Heim, a teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary School and a Daniels VBS volunteer, said summer slide happens when a child regresses in his or her reading during the time out of school for summer break.

"When a child is in a school day for six hours, whether in reading lessons, writing lessons or teacher read-alouds, he is immersed in literacy," she said. "A child's reading probably a good three to four hours a day of some sort across the curriculumn.

"Then children go home over the summer and, if they don't read and they are not writing, they do a summer slide, regress in their skills. It's like with a body part, if you never lift weights, your arms get weak."

Daniels' pastor, the Rev. Colby Leonard, noted that summer slide is cumulative.

"Each summer a child gets behind, it gets harder to catch up, then they get further behind," he said. "It's not just like one summer and they're back on track. So you can have a child that gets up to middle school and really has no sense of how to read. Summer slide keeps adding up until a child can't even make up the difference."

The idea for VBS/reading camp came about after the pastor and church member Beverly Vinson attended a Methodist conference and learned about summer slide.

"For the Methodist church all across North Carolina, this is an issue that we want to have an impact on," Leonard said.

"We had invited a lady who's a children's director at another church, to come to our church. She just happened to have this book called 'God and Good Night Moon.'"

Leonard filed the book away.

Later he was talking with Miss Heim about doing a reading camp and went back to the book, which relates children's books to spirituality.

"But we realized it was going to be a bigger bite than we could handle," Leonard said. "So we applied for and got a grant, and decided to combine the reading camp with Vacation Bible School."

Ms. Vinson then coordinated the VBS with the theme of "God and Good Night Moon," based on the book.

"We came up with an astronaut and outer space theme," she said. "We build a rocket out of three trashcans and even made moon rocks. We even got moons and stars and a pastornaut."

She said the Biblical song for the VBS was "God is Over the Moon" and the other song was a happy reading song. Snacks fit right in with the outer space theme. The children had moon cheese, moon pies, Milky Way (chocolate milk) and Tang -- because that's what astronauts drink.

Isaac Ham, 7, enjoyed eating the outer space snacks. He also liked making God stuff, like a tambourine, a harmonica and maracas.

Gage Wright, also 7, said he had fun learning about Jesus at VBS. And he, too, enjoyed the outer space snacks.

He came to VBS because he wanted to learn more about Jesus

The children also had a hand in making a quilt that was donated to Daniels Church after VBS was over. The children made their handprints on pieces of felt. A church member got someone to assemble them together in a quilt. And the children each took a square home.

The weekend after VBS, the church also hosted a luncheon for parents of the children who had attended VBS to sort of continue the reading camp.

Ms. Heim helped the parents learn how to read to their children and also give them strategies for reading.

"It's one thing to teach kids how to read," Leonard said. "It's a whole nother thing to make sure the parents know how to read to their kids."

Parents received a copy of "God and Good Night Moon" to help them be able to talk to their children about spirituality.

"It's not just going to end at this VBS," Leonard said. "If the parents take to heart the better reading practices and the spiritual lessons, they're going to have a way to relate to their kids in a way that maybe they wouldn't normally."

To help track the results of the VBS/reading camp, Ms. Heim has information about where the children from Meadow Lane attending were in reading skills at the end of this past school year. At the beginning of the new school year, she will pull their data to see where they are then and if the event helped stop summer slide.

"We're hoping that we have learned what to do and how to do it and next year, can do it throughout the summer," Mrs. Vinson said. "Maybe two days a week during the summer is a goal we will certainly shoot for."

And if there is any other church that would like to do the program, Daniels Church volunteers are putting together a package of steps to follow.

"There's no point in reinventing the wheel," Leonard said. "And if a church is apprehensive because VBS is very special, the way you know about God is if you can read the Bible. The only way you can read the Bible is if you can read at all. From an evangelical standpoint, this is the first step. If a child can read well, he can read God's word then he or she can learn to be a Christian. It's a logical thing."