The email invitation came in June: Would I come to camp for a week in August? The inquiry was from the director of
I accepted the invitation to be an author-illustrator-in-residence for the week, running workshops for campers ages 7-11. My task was to design daily book-related activities that would promote self esteem. I decided to have the kids make identity books -- collage scrapbooks of images and writing.
In good weather, which was most of the week, my classes gathered around tables in an outdoor roofed pavilion next to the swimming pool. Each child was given a square sketchbook as the base for their art and writing, and there were all kinds of art supplies. We brainstormed group lists about what was great and what was challenging about being Korean, being American, being bicultural and/or being adopted. Each day I introduced a visual idea for the children to use as a takeoff point for their own creations. One day we focused on Korean symbols, another day we drew mythical tigers and dragons based on folk art paintings, or made collages from piles of photographs of traditional and contemporary
Each day I also shared a Korean story. These included my book and drafts of folk tale retellings that I’d never pursued to publication. I was struck by the response. The kids went quiet, even the most hyperactive and rambunctious listening with rapt attention. In their slightly unfocused eyes, that hazy look when the mind is deep in an imaginary journey, I saw that the tales fed a hunger, and was reminded again of the power of stories for children.
The week culminated with a readers’ theatre presentation of my book that included live drumming, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, and a part for every child. It was like watching the book come to life. Afterwards, copies were available for sale and signing.
Going to camp was invigorating, rewarding and fun. I certainly sold some books, but far beyond that, my book – and I - became part of the campers’ lives. I’ve already signed up for two Korean culture camps for next year.Posted by Anne Sibley O'Brien, author of The Legend of Hong Kil Dong.