Children's Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp

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NYU Press, Jan 1, 2008 - History - 364 pages
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For over a century, summer camps have provided many American children's first experience of community beyond their immediate family and neighborhoods. Each summer, children experience the pain of homesickness, learn to swim, and sit around campfires at night.

Children's Nature chronicles the history of the American summer camp, from its invention in the late nineteenth century through its rise in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Leslie Paris investigates how camps came to matter so greatly to so many Americans, while providing a window onto the experiences of the children who attended them and the aspirations of the adults who created them.

Summer camps helped cement the notion of childhood as a time apart, at once protected and playful. Camp leaders promised that campers would be physically and morally invigorated by fresh mountain air, simple food, daily swimming, and group living, and thus better fit for the year to come. But camps were important as well because children delighted in them, helped to shape them, and felt transformed by them. Focusing primarily on the northeast, where camps were first founded and the industry grew most extensively, and drawing on a range of sources including camp films, amateur performances, brochures, oral histories, letters home, industry journals, camp newspapers, and scrapbooks, Children's Nature brings this special and emotionally resonant world to life.


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Very good book about camps, history, and I would include sociology. Paris does a fine job at breaking down into two groups, (I) "At work and at play: The making of camp "Family" and, (II) Modernity and Tradition in Children's Socialization.
In a world that is promoting technologies to detract a youngster from experiencing their natural world around them and in the process learning socialization skills, the summer camps are an old idea with a strong new message for all of us to hear: the child has their time with gadgets, yes, but lest us not forget the importance of going and engaging the fun of the times (now) in a natural setting amongst our own age. We will truly walk away with a lifetime of memories that help a youngster to build their foundation on socialization skills that will last a lifetime. And by the way, it's fun :)


The Making of Camp Family
The First Summer Camps
How Parents Camp Owners and Children Forged Camp Networks
The Organization of Camp Community
Tensions in the Camp Family
II Modernity and Tradition in Childrens Socialization
5 Is It Progress? Modernity and Authenticity in Camp Life
Race Primitivism and Camp Community
Camp History American History Childrens History
I Had to Go On in Life From Camp to Childhood Nostalgia
Abbreviations of Archives
About the Author

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About the author (2008)

Leslie Paris is Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia.

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