This one time at reading camp....

“Some say they get lost in books, but I find myself, again and again, in the pages of a good book. Humanly speaking, there is no greater teacher, no greater therapist, no greater healer of the soul, than a well-stocked library.” 
― L.R. Knost

A few weeks ago I got an opportunity to run a reading camp this summer. It is not exactly the best time in my life to plunge into sudden full-time employment by launching a completely new initiative that involves hundreds of people and four locations, but, well...it's reading. I couldn't resist.

We hired 40 high school students and sent them out to 4 summer camps across the East End. We call them Reading Warriors, and our aim is to match them one on one with elementary kids and collectively log a million minutes reading. For many years I have believed - and in fact, have become increasingly more convinced over time - that time spent reading for pleasure, outside of the obligations of school or work, could solve most problems. I believe this because of some research like this or this or this, but also because I have personally witnessed the transformation of children who learn to call themselves "readers" and act like "readers" and subsequently change the trajectory of their academic careers. I've seen it happen over and over again in my tutoring business and in the schools where I've taught. I consider teaching reading to be my superpower, and although my background in linguistics and reading education is certainly helpful to correct any number of reading disabilities, the super part of the power comes from believing that reading more makes you a better reader. And being a better reader unlocks opportunities for self-growth, for connecting with others, and empowerment.

I couldn't pass up this opportunity because when the project was pitched it was just about reading. No Common Core. No cross curricular STEM connection. Just books and kids.

Turns out, it's kind of hard to run a program like this. To craft it the right way, and get buy-in and order the right kinds of books. To get it all organized and rolled out in a week and a half and keep things going while dashing to your car to pump three times a day and managing the day-to-day drama of inner-city teenagers.

It doesn't look like what I thought it would look like.

I still believe in it, though, in the power of sharing print, in stories reread while lounging on bean bags. In visits to the library. In teenagers carrying around tattered copies of Othello. In children squealing with delight as someone reads Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type to them.

Today a kid asked me who my Reading Warrior was, when I was a kid. As if Reading Warriors weren't something that we just invented a few weeks ago. I had almost forgotten that, because I have invested so much faith in them, in their power. I wonder if the burden is too great, or if they will rise beyond my expectations. Two weeks in and the honeymoon is over, but we still have 4 weeks to go.


Anonymous said...

My yoga teacher always reminds us to smile when we are in Warrior pose. That's my tip for the remaining weeks.

Aunt Mary

k said...

I checked out 25 books from the library today. It was my day off, but I can never stop thinking about this. Laurel was giddy with excitement over the long receipt we got. We staggered to the car under the weight of all those books. Tomorrow, I'll drag them all into the sites and the kids will circle around, pick them up one by one. Turn them over, and flip through the pages.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE taking little kids to the library....better yet, getting home and cuddling up and reading to them!!
aunt laine

Anonymous said...

I've had the great privledge of seeing the fruits of your labor firsthand and it is a wonderful thing. Your efforts open new worlds for kids that would otherwise not be able to enjoy. Keep up the great work.
Aunt DC

k said...

Thanks for the books, Aunt DC! They devoured them.

k said...

Laine - we are trying to recreate that cuddly story time feel. It's hard, but I'm capturing moments of it.