By Jan Pease
What I did on my summer vacation: I was a camp counselor at Camp Read a Lot in Marshall, MN. Now, one of the jokes in our family is that my idea of camping is the Duluth Radisson, so this camp was well within my comfort zone. Camp Read a Lot is a joint project of the Plum Creek and Pioneerland Library Systems. Teachers and other interested persons, librarians included, are invited to attend a conference, network with colleagues, and learn about wonderful children's books. They can receive continuing education credits for their time, and that component includes reading many, many books, writing a very brief review, and sharing ideas about how to use the books in a classroom or story time.
The first day of camp,Wednesday, was devoted to elementary grades 2-5. The morning speaker was Alison McGhee, an American author of books for both children and adults. She is a dynamic speaker and the time passed much too quickly. She emphasized how powerful individuals are in children's lives, both negative and positive. In her writing, she says that everything goes back to childhood experiences. She directed us in a writing exercise that was really quite an experience.
The afternoon speaker was the great Kathy Baxter, who is very well-known in library circles. Her energy is infectious. Her special emphasis was on how to get boys excited about reading by introducing them to nonfiction. The rest of the day was spent in book discussions. My role was to move from table to table talking about four books with groups made up of both teachers and librarians. These interesting, articulate people made the discussion time fly.
On Thursday the day was devoted to early literacy. The campers were preschool and kindergarten teachers and librarians. The morning speakers were Jodi Wambeke and Ann Trochlil, who are very involved in Early Family Programs in Willmar. They gave great information that was especially useful for early childhood classrooms.
The afternoon speaker was simply incredible. Kimberly K. Faurot now works at the St. Paul Public Library. Her presentation was called “Bring your Storytimes and Early Literacy Lessons to Life Using Props, Puppets and Pizazz.” Kimberly led us in using voices and excitement while reading. She showed us how to use props and puppets. She finished her presentation by telling Helme Heine's story, The Most Wonderful Egg in the World. She had chickens on a felt board, eggs, and a costume for herself as the queen. She is a treasure.
The afternoon's discussion centered on picture books. You know the phrase, “preaching to the choir”? Well, these teachers and librarians love picture books and leading a discussion was very, very easy. I have the lists of books at the children's desk if you're interested. These are wonderful books and have made a great addition to the Litchfield collection. We own all of the early literacy books, most of the second and third grade books, and some of the grade 4 and 5 books. Happy reading!