Here in New York City is a unique venue called Symphony Space where you can see a recording of Selected Shorts, go to a screening of the National Theater Live, watch dance and musical performances, and get involved with a range of educational activities. They have a special commitment to children’s literature with awesome events and a very special summer camp — the Thalia Book Club Camp. This is a summer program for kids who love to read and love books. The activities are extraordinary. They take their campers on field trips — one last week was to Scholastic and another was to the Metropolitan Museum with George O’Connor (who does those terrific Greek god graphic novels). They have an author every day, not just talking about their books, but doing stuff with the kids too. Last week, for example, Laura Amy Schlitz got them started on shadow puppets and yesterday Chris Grabenstein did improv!
I visited last Friday and have to say I’d have been in heaven as a kid had I been able to do such a program. Each day is carefully organized, a nice mix of activities that get these book worms up and moving, creative opportunities, time to read, and time to listen and interact with a book creator. Writer Matthew Cody oversees the kids, suggesting fun activities, and keeping things moving along, assisted by a number of young adults.
Director of Education Madeline Cohen and the Director of Literary Programs Katherine Minton plan, prepare, and also are there with the kids. Madeline told me about some of her plans for their upcoming week for 12-14 year olds including a trip to the New York Public Library to see their wonderful exhibit, “The ABC of It.” Madeline visited and is preparing something to stimulate and engage the kids as they go through the exhibit. She and Katherine also told me about the campers — some of whom come from all over, even overseas!
Their visitor on Friday was the award-winning nonfiction writer Steve Sheinken. In preparation the kids had read Lincoln’s Grave Robbers and done some historical picture research so they were primed when he began. The children loved his stories about how he got into writing and the untold historical stories that he had come across and wanted to tell. At the end he read a final section from the book involving a grave robbery and then the kids went off and wrote something taking off from it — one wrote from the point of view of a nearby dog, another from the corpse, and still another chose to do her scene as a comic. They then headed off to lunch at nearby (and appropriate) Grant’s Tomb.
My great thanks to Katherine for inviting me to observe and kudos to all involved for a truly remarkable camp. Do check out the camp blog for detailed posts about their days.