22 July 2010

Summer Camp in a Bookstore

Listen up, Bradley. Stand at attention and hold on to that book. Chin up, shoulders back. That’s right. Good morning children, and welcome to your Summertime Books Boot Camp.

At least, that’s how I used to imagine camp, scarey and authoritarian, until I looked more closely. Across the country bookstores are running friendly summer camps for children. I’d go in a California second if I were eight years old.

Some camps are free half-day gatherings in a store with games, reading and snacks. Other camps are paid reservation only, elaborate productions staffed by expert booksellers and authors.

The bookstore camp phenomenon exemplified by one store in Brooklyn was written up recently in the New York Times. A couple of days ago Bookselling This Week, a newsletter for independent booksellers, filled in with reports from other stores.

Diane Capriola co-owns The Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia. Her store “has been holding summer camps since the store opened five years ago.” This year they have NINE camps. I am impressed.

Reading through the descriptions I’m thinking how great these camps sound. Their offerings range in cost from $210 to $325 for a week and promise to be rich in experiences and fun. Right now, all nine camps are filled, some with waiting lists.

Consider the Boo-yah for Boys! Camp: “Do you thirst for adventure and mystery? Do you love rockets and secret codes, hunting for treasure and figuring out how things work? In short, are you a boy who wants a whole week of TOTAL AWESOMENESS? Boo-yah for Boys! Camp is full of activities, learning, and adventure designed to entertain, engage, and elevate young boys. Join us, and become one of the few, the proud, the Boys of Summer!”

Other camps include Campology Camp, Camp Kane, Creative Writing Camp, American Girl Camp, Chess Camp, Camp Half-Blood, Goody for Girls! Camp, and The Name of This Camp is Secret.

In Campology Camp you’ll create an “ology” book of your own based on things you learned. In Creative Writing Camp kids learn techniques and meet authors; in other camps you might learn to sew, solve bank robberies, visit the vet, put on a talent show, do magic, decipher codes, solve clues to a mystery in competition with another bookstore’s summer camp, learn about girls in history, immerse yourself in Egyptian myths, capture the flag, race a chariot, and more.

There are many other bookstore summer camps in locations across the country, ranging from Brownstone Books in Brooklyn to Bookpeople in Austin, Texas, Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, California, to Eagle Harbor Book Company Bainbridge Island, Washington.

At Camp Eagle Harbor you’ll find free weekly day camps in the store. Expect a professional children’s theater workshop, a soccer program with workout in the store parking lot; a book group with free stuff, sneak previews, and a discussion; a spelling bee, a bead making workshop, a class in making sock puppets, and more.

Bookstores do need to reach out to new readers and find creative ways to relate to the surrounding community. The summer bookstore camp is one of the best ways bookstores accomplish all that.

If the idea clicks with you, check with your local bookstore or library for similar events. Here in Mendocino a local independent bookstore offers three summer events: Story Time with Allegra Fisher, Creative Writing Workshop for Middle and High School students, and a Summer Reading Club for Tweens and Teens.

Judy Wheeler and Bob Ditter at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton offer a Mystery Writing Camp for children. “Discover clues, crack codes, develop your own mystery stories and have a heap of fun! All kids aged 8-12 who love to read, write and solve mysteries are welcome!”

You don’t even need a bookstore to sponsor a camp... get together with other families you know and organize your own. There’s lots of summer left!


The Little Shop of Stories...

Bookselling This Week...

Another Bookselling This Week article on summer camps,

Camp Eagle Harbor...

Towne Center Books...

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