Dollar General Grant Winner: Camp Fun to Read

The Keene Public Library in Keene, N.H., just finished a very successful Camp Fun to Read program. What made our program so successful was the opportunity to provide three paid teen internships which we were awarded through the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA. The interns served as reading and writing mentors or buddies to younger children who are beginning or struggling readers in our Camp Fun to Read Summer Reading Program.  The goal of this program was to boost confidence and encourage young children who will be entering 1st through 3rd grades to take ownership of their own reading adventures. Camp Fun to Read took place at the library from August 6 – 17, Monday – Friday from 1-3 pm.

Our intern Macy and one of our Camp Fun to Read participants

We began the process of recruiting the interns while school was still in session when we contacted the school librarians, counselors, and teachers for referrals. A job description was created and approved by the City of Keene.  A team of youth and teen librarians interviewed six candidates and three teens were selected. Two weeks before the start of the camp, teens attended a paid orientation program to acquaint them with the library and the goals of the camp. Interns then worked 4 hours each day from 12 – 4 for two weeks.

Teens worked with librarians and peers to develop and carry out activities designed to inspire young readers to explore their own reading and writing interests. Teens read to younger children and encouraged their independent and group reading activities. Interns assisted book selection, preparation of craft activities, set up and tore down for each session. Interns gained experience working with young children by engaging with them in a variety of activities involving reading, crafts, drama, and technology.

Each day after the three-hour camp, there was time for reflection. Teens kept a daily journal and participated in guided discussions regarding workplace and personal skills including:

  • Understanding workplace culture and hierarchy and what it means to be an employee reporting to a manager.
  • Learning about the importance of teamwork to achieve goals and objectives resulting in building trusting relationships with adults and peers.
  • Practicing time management, planning and prioritizing,
  • Learning resilience through trying new things and learning from mistakes.
  • Building confidence by engaging in meaningful work outside of the school environment;
  • Building self-esteem through mentoring younger children
  • Personal finance through managing a paycheck.

All three interns spoke to the challenges and learning opportunities afforded them through teamwork.  “I learned not only how to reflect and plan but also how to do this with a group of other people. I had to work with others to plan out each day and by doing this it gives us a chance to negotiate compromise and be flexible.”  Another teen said, “I enjoyed working with my peers and gained more experience with dividing tasks and being productive as a team.” Lastly “I feel I have gained more value in the importance of teamwork to achieve goals and present objectives that of which results in the building of trusting connections with adults and peers, alike.”

In addition, they all spoke to their new found confidence working with young kids and they were proud of themselves for their ability to be flexible and switch gears when things didn’t go as planned.  “While working with the kids, I had to work on the spot many times . . . I had to learn resiliency by trying new things and learning from errors.”  And, “I learned a lot about the dynamics of working with children. It’s been a good leadership experience for me, especially the times I worked with kids individually . . . forced me to learn how to direct them to get them to do the task assigned while still making it personalized and interesting for them.”

All of them report feeling more confident in using the library.  “I am a lot more confident in the library myself.”  “I gained experience in finding any books in the junior division of the Keene Public Library (a skill that will be useful in my high school too!).” “I am a lot more aware of the different ways that the library can provide assistance.”

Lastly, they are all proud of the work they did to cultivate enthusiasm for reading.  “To my astonishment, I have really enjoyed working with kids of younger age and help them, develop enthusiasm for reading.” “The most interesting was to watch the kids become excited about reading and being able to find books by themselves that they can read and want to read.”

Everyone involved in Camp Fun to Read felt the program was a success. We definitely will do the program again and continue offering paid internships for teens.

Gail Zachariah works at the Keene Public Library.

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