Catherine Manci:
Research & Instruction Librarian at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, GA
2010 Summer, Camp Read-a-Rama Staff, Clemson, South Carolina
I am a librarian today because of Camp Read-a-Rama! I worked with Camp Read-a-Rama while I was an undergraduate (2010), and I was sure that I was destined to be a high school teacher. A few years into teaching, I started to evaluate the parts of my current and past jobs that I liked, and I thought back to Camp Read-a-Rama. That experience mirrored the work that many librarians do, and I remembered Doc Martin telling me that I should consider librarianship. So, I finally heeded her advice, and I found a career that I love in libraries.


Montana Rindahl:
Children’s Librarian, Mammen Family Public Library in Bulverde, Texas.
2012 Summer, Camp Read-a-Rama Staff, Columbia, South Carolina
Read-a-Rama has influenced me in so many long-term ways that I am still discovering them! Two pieces stick with me the most day-to-day. First: if we value reading, then books can and should be the starting point for every program and activity my library offers. I use books as the springboard for everything I do. Second: kids need to read, and they need to play outside. I actually now run a program for Kindergarten-2nd grade in my library that’s modeled similarly to Read-a-Rama. Each week we meet for an hour, half of which is designated reading time, the other half of which is outdoor activity time (we’ve done everything from group games to gardening to raising butterflies). Students who consistently participate get a free book at the end of the semester. These are the big, explicit, effects Read-a-Rama has had on me. But I see Read-a-Rama’s influence everywhere: from singing “Jump in, Jump out!” as my introduction song at book club, to my consistent expectation that groups that span a wide age range will be successful, to my tolerance for managed chaos, to my insistence on frequent meetings with the rest of our youth services staff to debrief, collaborate, plan, and tweak programs together. Oh! And the line in the Camp Read-a-Rama theme song is true: “and when we are gone, you’ll remember our song!” I think I have that song stuck in my head about once a month!
Note on the photo: Montana’s coworker asked her to “pick your favorite children’s book.”

Lauren Rizzuto:
Lauren Rizzuto is a lecturer in Children’s Literature at Simmons University and a PhD candidate in English at Tufts University, where she studies the cultural intersections of nature, childhood, identity, and literature. In her free time, she volunteers with City Sprouts, a Boston-based non-profit organization that builds sustainable education programs for grades K-8 in the Boston area.
2009 Camp Read-a-Rama Staff, Clemson, South Carolina
It’s pretty difficult to boil down what I learned, and continue to learn, from participating in Read-a-Rama nearly a decade ago. I’m an introvert by nature, so I confess that the “living books” experience of CRaR’s singing about and designing crafts and sharing books amongst other people, felt strange at first. Yet, now more than ever, I reach back to those memories in Clemson because it was there I learned how to put my love of reading to less selfish use, how to take myself a little less seriously and put aside my insecurities, and most importantly how to read with someone else, for someone else. Simply put, I learned the necessity of sharing.
Now, as a lecturer in children’s literature at a private college and someone who studies environmentalist literature, I’ve come to realize that cynicism in the classroom is all too easy to cultivate, and that the work of hope is hard. Not many people who study or write or publish or even teach children’s literature extend their knowledge beyond the workplace. But I remember how in 2009 I and others spent our hard-earned summer time ensuring that more young people would have a fair shot at academic success that following autumn. It was a privilege to share that joy of learning, and realize that I learned in return. I strive to spend my time today as wisely and generously as I did then.
Caption for the photo: Amelia Hare (16) with Lauren, her favorite Camp Read-a-Rama Counselor when she was 6 . . . and is still one of her favorite people in 2019!

Kayla Washington:
Teacher, L. W. Conder Arts Integrated Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina.
2010-11 Summers, Camp Read-a-Rama Counselor-in-Training, Clemson, South Carolina
2012-14 Summers, Camp Staff, Columbia, South Carolina
2016, Camp Read-a-Rama Research Project with Dr. Martin as a University of South Carolina Magellan Fellow,
I became involved with Camp Read-a-Rama as a Counselor-In-Training in high school and continued to work as a counselor throughout college and also participated in a Camp Read-a-Rama research project with Dr. Martin during my junior year of college. My summers at camp helped me realize that I wanted to be an educator. I am now entering my third year of teaching at L. W. Conder Arts Integrated Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina. I use camp songs and storytelling skills that I’ve learned through Read-a-Rama in my daily morning meetings. These silly, engaging moments allow me to build strong relationships with my students individually and create a comforting environment in my classroom. During our reading and writing blocks, I immerse students in the topic of our reading through song, dance, videos, and other activities to make sure they understand the content. My students enjoy visits from mentors and leaders in our community, interview them, and develop presentations about what they have learned; I learned the importance of community engagement from the Camp Read-a-Rama program. The work in my classroom has not gone unnoticed. Although I am just entering in my third year of teaching at Conder, I am the 5th grade team ELA lead, AVID point person, Math PLC lead, and I share Culturally Relevant Teaching strategies at faculty meetings. I also serve as a mentor teacher for minority education majors at The University of South Carolina. Camp Read-a-Rama has touched many parts of my life and has played a key role in the success of my chosen career.

Jay Weir:
Special Education Teacher for Kennedy Krieger High School in Baltimore, Maryland and also earning a Master’s degree in Special Education in the Graduate School at John’s Hopkins.
2017 Summer, Camp Read-a-Rama Staff, Seattle, Washington
After one summer of working with Camp Read-a-Rama, I now try to incorporate reading and books into everything I do with students. Being a Special Education teacher and working with children who often don’t like reading makes it hard, but if we can make reading the most exciting part of a summer camp–a place where kids go swimming, play outside, and create art–I can do the same thing in my classroom. Being part of the program was a joy, and I was excited to provide a safe, educational, and fun place for the campers who might not have had anything else going on. We did it in just a few rooms, a nearby park, and a bunch of books. I’m proud of how well it went and hopefully the campers will be lifelong readers and hopefully understand that reading can be an enjoyable part of everything they do.