Summer Reading Vacation, ‘A much needed gift in this community’

Neighbors’ House, in collaboration with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, is fostering a love of reading and agriculture education this summer with a series of free week-long programs for area children.

Janae Taylor, (left) 4, from DeKalb, and her sister Jameya, 7, have some fun Monday, July 11, 2022, during of a session of Summer Reading Vacation put on by Neighbors' House in DeKalb in conjunction with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Christ Community Church is hosting the camp this week in their outreach center on North 6th Street in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Area schoolchildren took part in a recent week-long reading summer camp, part of collaborations through the Summer Reading Vacation program at Christ Community Church and Neighbors’ House.

Rachel Juarez and her grandchildren, Ayden Lithche, 7, and Nevali Lithche, 4, were among several families who attended the Summer Reading Vacation barbecue at the Christ Community Church outreach center to kick off the program.

“This is a much needed gift in this community,” Juarez said. “I know that this is faith filled, and I wanted to encourage a love of reading.”

Area children were invited to learn and explore the world of agriculture through reading this summer at Summer Reading Vacation, a program created by Neighbors’ House to connect with the community, promote summer learning, and facilitate positive adult relationships with children in the community.

Neighbors’ House is a nonprofit that serves DeKalb County students and families and is run almost entirely by volunteers. The organization primarily does after school and summer reading programs.

Each year, Neighbors’ House collaborates with different local organizations based on the theme. This year’s theme is “farming and our community,” in collaboration with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau.

Summer Reading Vacation partners with local churches and organizations to put on the program at their locations. The camp is held at six locations throughout the summer, four of which are open to the public and two are specific to the housing complex hosting them.

Neighbors’ House Director Anna Scott worked with Rhodora Collins, agriculture literacy coordinator with the farm bureau, to develop a curriculum to teach kids about farming.

Scott said activities vary by the day, but most nights a farm-themed book is read aloud, counselors and kids partner up for one-on-one or small group reading, and the kids engage in various crafts and activities.

Each day of the camp focuses on a different aspect of farming, with activity worksheets and books about the topic provided by the farm bureau.

“Most of us are a few generations from the farm and our food comes from the grocery store,” Collins said. “A lot of people don’t understand that most of the corn we see around us, for example, is field corn, not sweet corn or pop corn.”

Collins said on the day focused on corn, the farm bureau provides bushels of different kinds of corn for the kids to examine, dissect, and learn about the types and their uses.

“It’s just helping people understand agriculture,” Collins said. “And how important it is to all of us, regardless of your farm background.”

Some of the farm-focused books include: Dr. Seuss’ “Oh Say Can You Seed”, Lisl H. Detlefsen’s “Right This Very Minute: A Table-to-Farm Book About Food and Farming”, and Viola Butler’s “Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish.”

Both Collins and Scott have backgrounds in education and Collins called the farm bureau’s partnership with Neighbor’s House a perfect collaboration.

“They’re looking for ideas and resources, and we’re looking for a way to get them out there,” Collins said. “It’s a win-win.”

Scott said Summer Reading Vacation has been held annually for over 15 years, and this is the second time they have worked with the farm bureau, the first was in 2014.

The next Summer Reading Vacation program will be in partnership with the Genoa Vets Club, held Aug. 1 to 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., and is open to the public.

Those who wish to attend can register on the Neighbors’ House website. Registration is appreciated, but not required.

David Petesch

David Petesch

David Petesch is a reporter for Kendall County Now.