Literacy is generally defined as the ability to read and to write. Competence or knowledge in a specified area is defined as literacy too. Day and overnight camps are literacy-friendly, literacy-boosting environments. Perhaps that’s because the camp movement was founded by teachers a century and a half ago. Perhaps it’s because children want to learn more about and engage in writing and reading when there’s a real world connection like camp activities provide. Perhaps the inspiration and role-modeling provided by the counselors helps boost the way children value literacy. It turns out that increased competence and knowledge in a specified area comes in very handy after camp!
Here are six exciting ways that ACA Accredited camps here in New England are stemming summer learning loss and boosting campers’ literacy by providing fun, meaningful ways to engage in both Reading and Writing. Stay tuned for our next blog post that will feature all the kinds of literacy that are supported at summer camp:
Read Alouds abound. At both day and overnight camps, it’s common to see campers and staff enjoying books together. You might see a group gathered to share a picture book together like this group of campers and counselors at YMCA Camp Woodstock in Woodstock, CT. In fact this summer, Camp Woodstock is reading: Holes, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Matilda. Several camps have traditions of counselors reading aloud to campers after meals, at rest time or before bed. Sharing a book adds yet another layer and dimension to a group experience they're already sharing.
There’s a real connection to the formal education world. So many teachers and other educators also work at summer camps. They bring knowledge of what their students love to read and write about during the school year and knowledge about what is developmentally appropriate for a particular age group. Many also bring formal knowledge and experience in teaching and supporting literacy in pre-school or school-age groups of children.
Rest time and downtime are really conducive to independent reading. Campers often choose reading over napping! Campers bring books from home and books on their summer reading list from school. There are opportunities to read them at camp, whether on the bus or while waiting for the waterfront to open for free swim. Camps even offer books to borrow. Many camps have libraries—some small, some large, most stocked by donations from camper families. There are even Camp Librarians and dedicated space in a few camps. The accompanying photo (above) is of the library at Birch Rock Camp in Waterford, ME. Camp staff who are college students often bring summer reading to be done. At camp, children take notice of who and how the adults around them engage with text, just like at home and at school!
Programmatic inspiration. Various activities at camp involve both reading and writing and real world motivations for doing both. There are reasons to read in every major program area: in Performing Arts campers work with scripts; in Nature campers identify insects, plants, and animals; in Cooking/Culinary Arts campers follow and create recipes; in Camp craft/Outdoor Pursuits there are manuals and resources and maps and charts; and in Fine Arts—whether that’s fabric art, ceramic art, photography, or numerous others—there are also written directions/resources/texts campers must follow and decode. And in super active program offerings, like sports and waterfront and ropes course pursuits, campers have a great reason and inspiration to read: Rules! Everything from posted rules, to rulebooks and scorebooks, to the rules for a new game or initiative on the ropes course, to the procedures for replacing a sail or a soccer net, campers quickly appreciate that what's behind fun and adventure is often meaningful text!
Writing is important—especially at overnight camp. Many in today’s world lament the declining opportunities for handwriting letters. We just don’t have to write as much now that all these spiffy devices record our every word. Some elementary schools have tossed out teaching cursive in favor of teaching key boarding. Overnight camps offer campers (and their families) a unique opportunity to write to each other the old–fashioned way. Sure there are some modern conveniences that change camp communication—lots of photos and capability for one-way email chief among them—but being away at camp necessitates letter writing for campers as well as a new-found appreciation for US Mail, as you can see in this photo of Camp Timanous campers in Raymond, ME. Whether they’re motivated to ask for a forgotten item or they’re trying to tell a story, or they’re describing their feelings about a situation or a person, it’s the most natural, authentic writing assignment a child can have to craft a letter from camp! For parents, guardians and family members, it’s an equally valuable experience to write a camp letter. Overnight campers, as they’ll be the first to share with you, very much look forward to mail call and to reading what is in those precious letters from home. Camp mail is so important that counselors keep track of camper mail. Those campers who don’t receive mail from home do receive it from caring camp staff. It’s THAT important.
Literacy programs come to camp! Camps have embraced literacy programs enthusiastically. Very enthusiastically. The Children's Literacy Foundation (CLiF) storytelling presentations and book giveaways at summer programs across Vermont and New Hampshire keep reading a part of children’s lives during school vacation. Two of their initiatives will take place in August at ACA Accredited camps - Copper Canon Camp in Bethlehem, NH and Camp Exclamation Point located at Camp Farnsworth in Thetford, VT. CLiF works closely with organizations such as Hunger Free Vermont, New Hampshire Department of Education, and the New Hampshire Bureau of Nutrition Programs and Services to identify nutrition programs, low-income summer camps, and other organizations that serve kids at risk of experiencing summer slide. CLiF presenters tell stories, read aloud from books, and share their love of words, reading, and writing. Every child who participates chooses two books to keep from a wide selection of brand-new children’s books.
To combat summer learning loss, the ACA has encouraged camps to participate in a program called Explore 30 for a number of years; several camps in New England do. This summer ACA added and embraced Scholastic’s free Summer Reading Challenge to encourage campers to “Power Up and Read” throughout the summer.
Camp experiences do boost literacy in all its forms. In fact, summer camp may very well be the most literacy-friendly environment outside of schools and libraries. Our next post will delve into all the different types of literacy supported by day and overnight camps.
Photos (top to bottom) from the following ACA Accredited camps: Camp Timanous, Raymond, ME (Christine Petit, Le Petit Studio Photography), YMCA Camp Woodstock, Woodstock, CT, Birch Rock Camp, Waterford, ME & Camp Timanous, Raymond, ME (Christine Petit, Le Petit Studio Photography).