Back before cell phones, televisions, and computers began taking up most of our free time, books were in large part our source of entertainment. They were read aloud and read individually. Our minds were swept away to other places where we could imagine what characters and places looked like for ourselves rather than watching stories take place on screens. Our imaginations were exercised and our capacity to be empathetic toward others grew as we saw stories through a variety of different perspectives.
Lately, for kids it seems as though reading has largely been associated with something they have to do rather than something they want to do. Reading has often become associated with schoolwork, and technology with fun and free time. However, many bookworms still reside at Gold Arrow, campers and counselors alike, and we’ve decided to embrace and encourage the love for reading that is still alive for many of our campers.
Starting this session, we’ve begun hosting Reading Time in Chipmunk during free time. Rather than going to an activity after dinner, campers have the option of sitting in comfortable pull out chairs in Chipmunk, a central location in camp, and reading a book of their choice. They can bring their own book or be provided with a book from our camp library or Little GAC Library, also located in Chipmunk. After a long day of activities, sometimes sitting and reading is the best way to wrap up the day. We love being unplugged, and we’re hoping campers can see how reading can take you to another world just as well as a movie or television show. While we’ve always had counselors read books aloud to their campers right before bedtime, we’ve decided to take our love for reading to the next level, and we’re excited to see where it takes us!
For years, counselors have read chapter books to their campers before bed. Who doesn’t enjoy a good story before falling asleep at the end of a busy day?
This year, some of our book-loving/hoarding staff members decided to step up GAC’s reading game. Inspired by the many mini libraries that have popped up around the country, where anyone can pick up and drop off books at no cost, we’ve decided to create our own “Little GAC Library” that will be located in Chipmunk, an easily accessible location for all campers.
GAC will be stocking the library with kid-friendly books, and we hope that campers will be encouraged to take books that sound interesting to them as well as leave books that they’ve already finished reading. We hope the Little GAC Library will encourage campers to read for fun, appreciating and enjoying the stories, rather than associating reading solely with homework. We might even be brainstorming a possible reading free time activity…we’ll see where our ideas take us.
By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
One of our treasured camp traditions is reading to campers each evening at bedtime. We adopted the tradition more than a decade ago, because we realized how calming it is and how much even our oldest campers enjoy it. I also know from my own experience how a love of reading comes from being read to and how, with our media- and achievement-focused culture, reading is sometimes going by the wayside these days. There is no better opportunity to get back to reading “real” books than when we’re unplugged AND have more downtime during the summer.
We keep a camp library of good read-aloud chapter books, as well as several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Some counselors also bring their own childhood favorites to read to their campers. This summer, one of our oldest boys’ counselors, Bambino (Cabin #28), selected Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus to read to his 14-year-old campers. He’s on his third reading, and by the end of August, he will have read the book four times to all 40 of the campers he will have worked with this summer. I really enjoyed the message of The Energy Bus when I read it a few years ago, but I decided to download the audio version and listen to it again on a recent long drive. With my current middle-aged memory, I couldn’t quite recall the key points of the book, only that I really liked it. After listening to it again, I immediately went to the website and printed out “10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life” to share with our leadership staff at our Monday morning meeting.
The Energy Bus is an allegory with a powerful message about the profound daily impact of a positive outlook on life. I would never have thought about reading it to or with my teenage sons, but it’s actually the exact right kind of book for their age group. In the story, the central character is having a bad day, which is representative of his falling-apart, negative life. He’s feeling terrible at both work and home. One day, with his wife unavailable and his car tire flat, he is forced to take the bus to work. That one day turned into two weeks during which the bus driver (Joy) and the other energy bus passengers teach him the “10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy!”
Each day, he learns a new rule and applies it to work or home. Then on the next day, he reports his results to the energy bus team. By the end of the story, as you can imagine, he’s managed to turn his life in a better direction. He’s also learned how much impact he can have on those around him (his family and work team) by changing his own attitude and behaviors.
What a powerful message to share with people of ALL ages! For teenagers, I’ve felt for a long time that one of our cultural problems is that we often make them feel useless. They go to school and sports and often have no responsibilities for others. When teens don’t have a job or volunteer area and have few responsibilities at home (because parents feel they’re too busy with school and sports), they can, I believe, start feeling like they have no purpose in life. Understanding how they can be positive leaders and ambassadors of positive energy wherever they are is a powerful message for teens to hear.
This morning, I checked in with Bambino’s campers to hear what they’ve learned so far from listening to him read The Energy Bus. Here’s what some of them had to say:
“I learned that you should say something and that no one can fill the needs that are left unsaid.”
“You’re the driver of your own bus.”
“You can get your bus wherever you’re going but others help you go faster.”
“It’s encouraged me to be more positive.”
“If something bad is happening, you can change it by changing your attitude.”
“Sometimes the worst things in life aren’t that bad and can lead to something good.”
This is some profound wisdom from 14-year-olds, who will head home from camp tomorrow with a bus ticket from Bambino inviting them to hop on their own energy bus!