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Reading on a Class Camping Trip - Is it Worth it?

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Attorneys have a duty to their surrounding community, especially in fostering education. The Fourth Grade Camping Trip is an annual rite for many elementary school students, their teachers, and some of the parents. I was a volunteer for each of our sons' and daughters' respective fourth grade outings, with each trip bringing knowledge - and, we hope, new wisdom - to all participants. My oldest son's camping trip bestowed a fresh appreciation for the magic of reading aloud.

It was the early autumn of 1991. St. Michael's fourth grade campers would experience the wonders of the California Gold Rush, the warmth of a large campfire, and soothing sounds of a fall breeze rustling the leaves of the surrounding trees. And for some fourth-grade boys, the power of my storytelling would come alive - perhaps more so than I intended.

After a full day of visiting Sutter's Mill and the Gold Rush town nearby, it was time for the fourth graders to settle down, share a hamburger meal, and get ready to retire to their tents for a night under the stars. Each tent had a chaperone - naturally, a person of maturity to keep order and provide an extra margin of safety for those under their tutelage. As a sufficiently mature adult, I was one of those chaperones appointed to oversee a group of five boys, my son included. And assuming that ghost and wild animal stories are a staple of childhood camping outings, I had brought along just the item to engage their young imaginations.

With a fond memory of my own fourth grade experience, I hit upon the winning idea that the boys would probably enjoy a story about bears. My own fourth-grader son, Mark, loved reading and listening to tales of wild animals, tigers and bears preferred. I had purchased the perfect book for any outdoor trip with children - Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance.

Our camping group was getting ready to hit the hay. The lights were out, and we were all zipped up in our tents. I turned on my flashlight and asked the boys, not quite sleepy yet, if they would like for me to read them a story. The answer was a resounding yes; oh, what dreams they must have enjoyed that night!

Research shows that reading aloud enhances classroom instruction and improves academic achievement. I can't say I was aware of that research, but I figured that evoking the presence of bears on a campground full of fourth-graders was just what the doctor ordered. Not long into a chapter of Bear Attacks, one of our campers, Cory, announced he wasn't feeling good and made a lightning-fast exit for his mother's tent next door. Momentarily pausing the story, I considered the possibility that the magic of reading aloud to children about killer bears might occasionally have a downside. No other parent chaperone, however, could bring the wonders of the wild to life quite like I could.

The next morning I learned that Cory's mother had not approved of my campground reading selection. Upon a two-or-three second reflection, I thought she made a fine point. For all remaining Fourth Grade Camping Trips, Bear Attacks stayed at home. Stalked by a Mountain Lion, I learned, proved much more kid-friendly.

Reading to Kids about Bears on a Camping Trip | Good Idea or Great Idea? from Hackard Law on Vimeo.

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