What I did over summer break....

Remember when I said I was going to scale back this summer? Hang out with my kids. Maybe paint a little. Clean the attic. Hang out at the pool.

Yeah, didn't happen like that.

A few weeks into June, my boss approached me and said he had some money for a reading camp. He's an idea guy. A Big Idea guy, and the kind of person who never has to deal with the details so it doesn't even seem to occur to him when things might be really, really hard to put together. The idea was to connect high school kids with elementary kids and read. Simple at the core, and I'm happy to say we kept it that way. Complicated in the execution, what with coordinating 30 teenagers at 4 sites with 80 kids and 500 books.

We ordered bean bag chairs and books, a journal for every kid and boxes and boxes of index cards. We read and read and read and read some more and then made sight word memory games with the index cards. We went to the library and at first got kicked out and then met the magical Ms. Sheila. The kids made puppets and put on plays and held a spelling bee. Last Tuesday, we gathered on the steps of the church and read in front of the whole neighborhood. But mostly they just read, paired off in groups of two or three. They reread their favorite books and badgered us to check out new ones from the library on our cards. They had quiet conversations of which I'll never know the content.

Hopefully we stopped the "summer slide" for them, and I'm gathering data right now to prove that, but the real beauty comes in ways that are impossible to track. We carved out a quiet space for these kids so they could simply relax and share stories. We gave them the opportunity to fall in love with words without the pressure of having to sound them out in front of a classroom full of kids who can be cruel to those who are a little slower. We let them hate books and choose another one.

It was freakin' magical.

My partner in crime for this project was a woman I taught with at Propel McKeesport, back before we had children. There were many times during this summer when I apologized for dragging her into this. (They are teens. There was occasional chaos and attitude.) She always dismissed it and reminded me of the magic. Reminded me that we were privileged to be in a position to watch this happen.

"Reading is Power,"read one sign we held up at our Public Display of Reading.

I really think there's something to that.

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