One of the many reasons people at camp call me “Mom” is because I love reading to my campers at bedtime or during down time when asked. I’ve been called “entertaining” by my fifth grade campers because I “do voices” and read more like I’m narrating a play and all of its parts. Part of the reason I do this is because, well, I enjoy it. They may not seem too interested in reading when you interact with them, but that’s usually because it’s during the day and there are so many other things to do. But when given the option to stay up a bit later, they will want to be read to; and many kids (and even teens) really do like listening to someone else read. For younger kids it may be something their guardians do at home; for the older ones it may remind them of the comforting reading time they had as a young child. Children who are read to on a usual basis (five or more times per week) often use more literary language when asked to speak or write.¹ While working with children, I have noticed that many kids show signs of stage fright or a feeling of discomfort when doing things as simple as introducing themselves to a group. I like to use reading to my campers as a way to show them that speaking up and being crazy when you talk is perfectly okay and even encouraged.
I find it’s often difficult to get my campers to interact (sometimes appropriately) at meal times. While being the icebreaker of the group can work, at breakfast I found my campers often spoke about the book I read the night before. That’s the last thing they remember from the previous day and it’s the first thing they’ll talk about the next morning (unless they’ve already been distracted by gaga ball). When we read to campers or children in general, they’ll unintentionally talk about the story, ask open-ended questions, question word definitions, and point out conflict and resolution. This promotes an increase in their language development and comprehension of stories– all of which lead to better reading skills.²
I usually bring a small collection of paperback books to camp with me and have a library in my cabin for down time or if they would like to read before bed. The big hits this past summer were J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Keeping in mind that my campers are usually in the 3rd-6th grade (8-12 years old) age range, here are some books I keep in my little library:
- Dolphins at Daybreak by Mary Pope Osborne
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s by J.K. Rowling
- Lions at Lunchtime by Mary Pope Osborne
- The Talking T. Rex by Ron Roy
- Midnight on the Moon by Mary Pope Osborne
- The Lucky Lottery by Ron Roy
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
WorstBest Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
- The Canary Caper by Ron Roy
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
- Faith and the Electric Dogs by Patrick Jennings
- The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
- Fergus Crane by Paul Stewart
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Now just remember, if that character yelled- you should be using above an inside voice. If that character is described as having an accent- try your hardest to have one. The more engaged you are in the book, the more engaged they will be. Read to your campers. They will love it and you will have control over bedtime.
Approximately 6.5 months until camp
¹Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York: Harper Perennial.
²Berk, L. E. (2009). Child Development (8th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.