“There are worse crimes than burning a book.
One of them is not reading them.”
This summer I have been working with our summer campers (ages six to twelve) on literacy. And I don’t just mean, getting the kids to read, but providing these wonderful, imaginative, unique personalities with reading and book experiences that will foster their own individual love for books. We schedule quiet reading times into each day. We go to the library once a week. I hope to get some of the older ones interested in volunteering to read to the younger classes. And we are also scheduling a teacher lead read aloud each day.
I did a little research on some great summer reading books and came up with the following list that we are working on this summer: Holes by Louis Sachar, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, Boy by Roald Dahl, Zathura and Jamanji by Chris Van Allsburg, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman.
These are all books that I recall loving when I read them or when people read them to me during my childhood. Of course, I was always one who loved to read. But, what about the kids who don’t initially like to read? In school reading and books are required. I know that I even dreaded assigned reading in school!
Just before the summer started I was talking to a couple of the students that were enrolled in our summer camp program and I told them that we would be doing a couple book and reading activities during each week. One of the boys, age 10, said he didn’t like books. He said books are boring! “Summer isn’t for books!”
A few of the others agreed, saying that they really wanted to have fun this summer, not read. I smiled at these responses and promised that all their worries about boring reading times would be put to rest, guaranteed!
The first week of summer camp began. And after lunch I stepped into the room to let the summer camp teacher take her lunch break. I asked the campers to sit in the circle area and get something comfy to relax with. A couple kids grabbed some blankets and pillows. It took a few minutes for all the kids to get situated, and many questions were being asked about what we would be doing in circle with blankets and pillows.
I pulled up a chair, took out my copy of Holes by Louis Sachar and told the campers we would be having a half an hour of relaxation time each day after lunch.
“During this time I will be reading a book out loud to all of you. I have two rules for reading time: You need to stay in the circle area, and you need to be quiet so that those who want to listen to the story can hear. You can take a nap, look at your own book, colour, or write in your journal but you need to just follow those two simple rules. Sound good?”
The one boy I was speaking to the week earlier sighed and said, “I guess that’s fine. I’ll probably just sleep through this boring book anyway.” He pulled his blanket over his body and closed his eyes.
I introduced my book to the group by saying something like, “The book we are going to read first this summer is called Holes. I read this book for the first time when I was 10 years old and I loved it! Who wants to guess what this book is going to be about?” I showed the group the front cover. The copy that I own has the illustration by Vladimir Radunsky. If you are not familiar with this illustration, it has an abstract profile of a boy’s head wearing a red baseball cap. In the background is a tan desert covered with holes in the dry ground.
The group looked at the cover and most guessed that the book was probably about that boy and some holes. I smiled at their guesses and said they will have to listen to the story to see if they are correct in their hypothesis.
I also told the group that this book is a chapter book with very very few pictures. And most of the pictures would have to be made up in their heads. Some of the six-year-olds were a little foreign to this concept and demanded proof of this pictureless book. I flipped through the book for them and they looked at the print-filled pages with shock. “And you liked this book, Ms. Rose?” a little boy said.
And now let the reading experience begin!
“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake…”
What a way to grab a child’s imagination! With this first line working its way through the campers’ ears, I felt like an enchantress concocting a magical brew, vocalizing Sachar’s words as a witch stirs a cauldron. The kids were hooked!
Let me pause here to highly recommend this book to anyone who has children in elementary school. This realistic contemporary fiction book has a fantasy twist with its Yellow Spotted Lizards and the fear of a curse due to one no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather! This book is great for both boys and girls. Although the main character is a young teenage boy, girls may love the idea of a female rough-riding outlaw, Kissin Kate Barlow!
All elementary aged children will love the funny character names such as Zig Zag, Armpit, Zero, and Caveman. My summer campers even laughed at the irony of one of the counselors named, Mr. Sir.
A fun discussion or journaling activity to do after all of these characters are introduced is to have your children make up their own Camp Green Lake nicknames and when you are reading the book, call each child by their selected nickname. The kids will get a kick out of it!
Sachar’s book reads like a mystery as the main character, Stanley, along with his friends, try to figure out why they are set to digging holes each day. It can’t really be for building character, can it?
After each reading session, I would leave my book in the classroom for the kids to look at anytime they pleased. I got book goosebumps one day when I walked into the room to find the one boy, who had previously voiced his concerns about this whole reading idea, sitting at the table with his nose buried five-feet deep by five-feet wide in Holes!
Another great moment I would like to share when I was reading this book was when Stanley had been desperately trying to sleuth out what the initials “KB” stood for on something he found while digging. And almost simultaneously alongside Stanley figuring it out, one of the campers sat up and gasped. She put her hands over her mouth in attempt to hold in her discovery as I read the answer to the mystery: “Kissin Kate–” “BARLOW!” the girl yelped in unison with me.
I enjoyed reading this books probably as much as the campers enjoyed listening to it. Watching a child’s reaction to a story as it unfolds is a wonderful experience and I hope that every book lover has this same opportunity.
I have so much more I would like to share about this book experience that this post will be in two parts! To read more, stay tuned for my next post on Wednesday, July 19 at 5:00!
Did you love Holes as much as I did growing up? Do you have any other summer reading suggestions? I would love to talk to you about them! Leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! You can also follow me on my facebook and instagram page @roseonreading for more updates of my blog!
Enjoy this quote from the headmistress of spellbinding writing herself:
“Something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”
[J K Rowling]
Your Book Digging Friend,