It is all about fun. Choosing the best, most engaging picture books, layering on Google Earth, music adaptations, alternate versions of folktales from around the world found on You Tube, creating digital book trailers and reader's theater podcasts - all of it. Swimming in stories for the fun of reading. For these are students who struggle with reading, and who may not have particularly positive connections with books. My job during summer school is to make it joyous. For four weeks I read with voices, make animal sounds, laugh loud and long, and help reluctant readers find the perfect book.
After reading about early American "super-hero" Paul Bunyan and mapping out the routes of all the tall tales we discussed how and why stories travelled, and their role in entertaining settlers who didn't have easy access to books or the technology that makes sharing stories so easy today. Imagine the hilarity when three of the boys got together and created their own tall tale skits about how they would perish without their computers. The mash-up of Paul Bunyan being resuscitated by Babe with a Wii was brilliant, and boy, did they "get" the elements of the tall tale!
Then there was a certain group of up-and-coming second graders who would finish their library visit by gathering on the carpet in front of the rocking chair and share their theories about God. This had nothing to do with me - I just quietly shelved nearby and eavesdropped. Picture some of the scrappiest, most ADHD kids you know, still dusty from the playground, taking a few minutes to ask each other "So you really believe God is some old white dude sitting on a cloud?" "Do you think it is true, that God can see everything?" "I think God is that good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone."
A group of rising fifth graders took a selection of their favorite picture books and made digital book trailers to share with younger students. Using storyboards and script outlines they pulled out characters, setting, conflict and wrote reviews. One team of boys struggled with their book, The Lazy Lion by Mwenye Hadithi. As they discussed and flipped back and forth from book to script I was amazed by their persistence. They kept at it until they came to consensus and then slowly put their thoughts to paper, checking spelling and correcting punctuation as they went. This wasn't easy and it took a lot of time. When I congratulated them on their good work and praised their tenacity one of the boys looked up with a huge smile. He said "My Mom says the same thing! She says my tenacity will see me through!" And he went back to work.
As a high school librarian this is a powerful way to touch base with my K-5 roots, and re-ground myself in the K-12 continuum. When a student enters the high school as a freshman I may have already met them in summer school. As librarian I already know that he/she may have challenges with reading and comprehension. Maybe this is a student with a learning disability. Maybe this is a student who feels disenfranchised by the educational process. But maybe this is a student who views the library as a safe haven, and associates it as a place of joy and not defeat. And maybe by working with this student during K-5 summer school I have built an important bridge that will contribute to success at the high school.
Dear 2010 Summer Reading Campers,
Thank you for letting me be your librarian this summer. I had so much fun with you, and I learned a lot, too. Have lots of fun playing, swimming and relaxing, and keep reading!
Your friend, Mrs. C.
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Summer for kids