Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E-Book of the Week: Children's Nature

Paris, Leslie. Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp. New York: NYU Press, 2008.

Drawing upon camp archives as well as the writings of children (diaries, letters home), Paris presents a history of the American summer residential camp, the aspirations of the adults who created them (physical and moral invigoration for their children, temporary liberation from parental duties for themselves) and the experiences of the children who attended them from the late 19th century through the 1930s. As the nation became increasingly industrialized, many adults began to see summer camps as a way of recapturing a simpler time when contact with nature was more common. Early camps catered to the Christian elite, but as the movement flourished during the Progressive era, camps for Jewish and other working-class urban children grew in number. In the first part of the book Paris discusses the “ideological, economic, physical, and social landscape of summer camps” in the early years, while the second part focuses on the interwar years when ideals and expectations began to change. While some children, like Charlie Brown, did not enjoy being shipped off to camp, Paris concludes that for the great majority of children this was an enjoyable, even transforming, experience.

Previewed by Jack Ray, Associate Director. Click here to read this book.

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