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To Be a Kid at Camp

August 20, 2012

By Duncan McDougall

Who says summer camp is just for kids? Every summer CLiF partners with oodles of summer camps that serve low-income or at-risk children across New Hampshire and Vermont. These collaborations let us relive our childhoods and connect directly with children over books, stories, and reading. It also gives us a chance to combat the ‘summer slide’ of reading skills that many children experience.

Yesterday I donned my favorite tie-die shirt, swimming trunks, sandals, and a big, handmade name tag that reads “Duncan –  Books!  Books!  Books!” and I was ready for business.

For my ninth year in a row, I drove to Fairlee, VT to Camp Exclamation Point, a free one-week camp for underserved kids from rural Vermont towns. These 115 kids get a weeklong summer camp experience that their families likely wouldn’t be able to afford. Many of these children are from families involved in dairy farming, lumbering, or apple picking.

CLiF provides these kids with storytelling, book discussions, and lots of new, inspiring books. Yesterday I spent much of the day holding book discussions with groups of campers. Kids at a summer camp willingly spending their time talking about books? You bet! And they love it.

We have a fast-moving discussion about the kinds of books they like to read, what awesome books really grabbed them this past year, and many of the hundreds of new CLiF books I bring with me. At first perhaps only half of the kids raise their hands, but the enthusiasm is tangible and contagious, and the books being discussed (Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, The Hunger Games, The City of Ember) are so compelling that by the end of each session every child is excited for the big payoff  — walking into the adjoining room, gazing at tables and benches laden in beautiful volumes, and picking any two new books to keep.

This week –  before lights out and during free time, curled up in their sleeping bags or under the shade of trees – you’ll likely find young campers reading Old Yeller, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Number the Stars, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Holes, The Way We Work, Pendragon, Eragon, Nancy Drew, Rain Forest Animals, and many other titles.

I’m sure they’ll save a little time for archery, canoeing, and swimming too!

You can read more about CLiF’s partnership with Camp Exclamation Point in an article in the Valley News.

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