Maybe you love listening to the crackling warmth of old vinyl records playing Muddy Waters or, I dunno, Bob Dylan, on your turntable. Or maybe you are into craft beer, holding a real book in your hands instead of a Kindle, sending a card more than thumbing a text, or the feel and quality of handcrafted artisan gifts found on Etsy.
Well there’s a book you ought to read if you do.
Making more time to read
I wish I could say that you were about to read an amazing book review by me about what I think is probably a pretty amazing book.
I WISH I could say it but let’s be real for a second.
Let’s see, I’ve got three little boys underfoot in various stages of crawling, toddling, and running/climbing/batting/basket-balling etc, along with a camp to run that opens in less than two weeks and so the picture of me kicking my feet onto the ottoman in the past few months to read a full length book sounds awesome but pretty much that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Reading my e-mail is quite enough, thanks. (Not that I don’t want to read, or don’t love books. My time will come again some day.)
But when my friend told me about a book she read, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax, she said I simply had to find the time to just squeeze out reading the epilogue of the book, just 11 short pages titled The Revenge of Summer which was all about…summer camp!
She was reading along about all those other artsy and cool things listed above when, lo, she came upon this ending section on summer camps and thought of little old me!
Summer Camp is the New (Old) Hip!
And so I did read it. And it was great, wonderful, everything anyone writing about summer camp should write. Stuff like the stuff that I have written over the six years of this blog, about summer camp preserving and nurturing a more creative child, giving her nature, stepping away from screens, and fulfilling the other — and possibly even more crucial — aspect of a child’s whole education: Play, outdoors, using her hands, sharing her heart, being creative!
I loved it!
What Sax did in the epilogue was connect his own childhood and teen years as a camper (and later counselor) to all of these other things in the book that today are a counterpoint to our overly e-dominated, screen-heavy, faster-than-the-sped-of-light lives — things like turntables, high quality print-on-demand books, local food culture, local manufacturing of artisan goods, face-to-face business meetings — with the amazing world of summer camps and all that they give to our kids when those camps are truly tech-free.
The camp that Sax went to is called Camp Walden, in Canada, and obviously by its name is inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s famous journey away from civilization to encounter nature, the wild, and himself.
By the time Sax was writing The Revenge of Analog, Camp Walden’s mission as an alternative to modern society was no longer so obvious, but instead, like so many other things today had to spell out their no-tech policy for parents:
We want campers to experience nature with all their senses, and engage directly with each another without the separation of a screen. At Walden, we encourage children to develop their sense of accomplishment and well-being through hands-on activities, whether they are sports or play or dance or music. And we want them to get those hands dirty! Which is why we need campers to leave most electronics at home. Help us preserve “endangered tech-free time” by supporting our policies.
After seeing this policy Sax drove up to Walden to revive childhood memories but also to learn more, to see how and why summer camps that are tech free “preserve endangered tech-free time.”
The Whole Child on the Whole Earth in Balance
Apparently earlier in the book — I haven’t read this…yet — Sax also discusses what he argues are misguided attempts in schools to better teaching through more tech even though researchers are increasingly finding that kids do better with face-to-face and hands-on education. Kids are also more, not less, creative when given more “analog” toys, games, and play possibilities than when they are provided opportunities mediated by screens — touch or otherwise. Analog being like, outdoors, on the water, in the woods, with their whole bodies, using non-tech tools, etc.
Sax finishes up his book not by calling for a tech-free world. He knows we’re not only beyond that — the horse is out of the barn — but that tech helps us in many ways and we enjoy it. He’s not saying go be a luddite and carve the world up by hand.
He’s saying we need a better balance.
And in the world of childhood development and education, there’s no better balance for nine months of screens at school and handhelds the rest of the time, of a world always defined by texts and Instagrams, than for kids to truly step away from it all, to digitally detox, to play, to run, to climb, to sing, to dance, to paddle, and swim, and aim, and weave, and feel the sunlight and the rainfall and the wind and see the stars and…talk to each other, face-to-face, all curled up in a tent at rest time or walking arm-in-arm to a meal or a campfire.
We all got this as kids. We know what it’s like. It’s the reason we say, “In my day…”
Our kids deserve as much. Or as Sax might argue, they need as much.
You can get the book on Amazon at this link…it would make a great Father’s Day present though I’m sure moms with a crafting streak and enough time to squeeze in reading would like it, too.
Sax writes about camps,
First, you place lots of people together, and have them relate to one another with the guidance of caregivers, who encourage and enforce mutual respect. Next, you mix in a program that creates various stresses, frustrations, and challenges that campers need to confront. This ranges from the simplest task of getting to breakfast on time to ten-day canoe trips in the harsh Canadian wilderness where twelve-year-olds might be expected to carry a 60-pound canoe on their head for a mile or more in the pouring rain, as blackflies gnaw at their ankles.
These situations eventually lead to individual perseverance and self-rspect…what most people call character. And that character is the glue that allows the relationships built at camp to last a lifetime, as my own friendships formed at Walden have. ‘You go a bit out of your comfort zone, endure a little hardship, people push you and help you to succeed, and you end up with friendships, confidence, and an inner fortitude that ends in a sense of belonging to a greater, interdependent community,’ (Walden director Sol) Birenbaum said. ‘This is one of the most basic aspects of the human condition.’
Thus far our campers haven’t had quite the back-breaking Canadian hike detailed in the above quote. But in our own way campers do face the joys of new discoveries, tasks, and goals and the challenges within the same, and certainly they’re getting the challenges and benefits of our no-tech policy. I’d say mostly benefits. With ninety-six summers of camp here this summer, clearly we’re doing something right!
I wish I could quote the full 11 pages of Sax on summer camps…it’s just that good. Get it and read it — cover-to-cover if you can because if the rest is as good as the summer camp part, I’m sure it’s a real treat!
See you at camp very soon!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
PS, get my FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Journey Early: