Don't Judge a Book by its Cover: Camp Read-a-Rama
What starts with 'reading' and ends in 'fun'? Read-a-Rama! Camp Read-a-Rama is a program that gets kids from different backgrounds excited about reading. Launched in 2001 by Dr. Michelle Martin from the teacher education department, Read-a-Rama allows Creative Inquiry students to engage local children in an enjoyable, curiosity-nurturing environment. At each themed session, like "Campout!" and "Animalia," the undergraduate students read books to the kids, from Cinderella Penguin to Dora's Book of Words and everything in between. The Clemson students talk with the kids about the story to get them to start thinking critically, which is followed by fun-filled activities related to the tall-tale. According to Dr. Martin, "When every experience is tied to a book, it makes the transitions from book to life and back to book completely seamless. That results in lifelong, enthusiastic and committed readers."
In the 20-plus semesters of Read-a-Rama, the camp has touched the lives of hundreds of children. Kids become more eager to read while making new friends. With the young children coming from all different backgrounds, they also become more aware of other cultures and ways of life. A grandparent of one camper wrote, "Dear Dr. Martin, Well, the WOW factor is on for the Camp, and Read-a-Rama! Andrew loved the time spent with the other kids and the counselors, and is still talking about the hissing roaches! He is very much looking forward to next year."
Clemson students find themselves growing and learning, too. Students in this Creative Inquiry project get a taste of the teaching profession and, perhaps, some inspiration to keep working towards their goals. Clemson student Gabrielle Cloonan noted, "During the semester it is easy to get bogged down with the negative sides of the education profession, but seeing parents and children excited for books, stories and education really reminded me why I want to be a teacher."
Working with the children isn't all about teaching them. The work is inspiring for the undergraduate students, as well. Lauren Freeman explained, "Working for Camp Read-a-Rama has allowed me to apply knowledge I gained in my classes in a real world setting in hopes of inspiring kids with a love of reading. Because children's literature is woven into all our activities, this passion for reading is everywhere and it's infectious! It is amazing to see readers with varying ages, abilities, and backgrounds come together over a common enthusiasm for books."
What started out as a way to encourage children of disparate backgrounds to read has evolved into much more. Clemson students interact with kids and have a real impact on their lives. Team member Rachel Warren sums up the value of her experience and the program itself, "Read-A-Rama taught me that spreading the joy of reading is one of the greatest ways to brighten someone's day and your own. It also showed me that if you have something you are passionate about, you should pursue it. Read-A-Rama is making a big difference in the community because someone decided to spread their love of books to others."