Looking for an Alternative to Summer Camp? Check out the Great Books Summer Program
I’ve always been a big reader. I picked up my first book up when I was 4-years-old and haven’t stopped since. And I’m pretty proud that I’ve passed that love of literature on to my three kids who are starting to branch out from things like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (whew!) and get into books that I’m excited to see them read.
I know I’m not the only parent out there who has at least one child who isn’t all that interested in going to soccer camp or sweating it out on a basketball court for a couple of weeks. And that sometimes has had me wondering if there is an alternative to summer camp that might appeal to my book-loving kids.
And I’m excited to say that I finally found one: the Great Books Summer Program.
Hosted at Stanford University and Amherst College with another program starting at Oxford University this summer, the series, that began in 2002, is where middle school and high school kids gather from all over the world to read, discuss, and practice their critical thinking skills. Attendees can choose the right fit for them, ranging from one to four week sessions, and will spend their days reading, participating in group discussions, interacting with amazing guest speakers (such as Jane Smiley, author of A Thousand Acres and Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog), and enjoying some free time to get some of that summer energy out.
“We take up the Great Conversation and great debates of classic literature, looking at timeless questions like: What is the good life? What do I owe my neighbors? What must I do in the face of injustice?
By asking questions we help young people to practice reflective reading and critical thinking, to recognize their own best thoughts, and to develop their ideas with care. Participants learn to get to the key content, to see the big ideas, and to more readily understand the subtleties in literature. These are wonderful gifts to take back to the classroom, to help prepare for the SAT, and to bring to personal reading.”
If looking at a program reading list that includes Shakespeare, Homer, Hemingway, and Tolstoy has your kid a little worried that they might have their nose in a book all summer trying to prepare…never fear. The program does not ask for any advanced reading and in fact encourages the campers to read the selections there, one small section at a time.
And in spite of the title, the Great Books Summer Program doesn’t have to just be about reading. They also offer a Great Films Program for grades 8-12 that gives kids a chance to “expand their critical thinking skills” when it comes to film. Students will watch new movies as well as classics and will learn what it takes to make a short film or write a screen play.
“This has been the best week of my life,” said Nick, a past participant in the Great Books Program. “Really. For the first time EVER I was able to do my favorite things in my life with like-minded people my age. I learned so much about literature, but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself.”
So, if giving your child the chance to hone their thinking skills, rub elbows with best-selling authors, read great works of literature, and spend time with other kids who think the way they do is something that appeals to you…check out this amazing program.
If they would just offer this camp to 36-year-old mothers…I’d be the first to sign up.
Catherine Tidd is a widow, mother, and the author of the upcoming book “Confessions of a Mediocre Widow” (January 2014). She is the founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. She has been published in several books about grief and renewal and also writes a blog on anything that pops into her nutty brain called Bud Light Wishes and Cheeto Dreams.