Conger kids pack their books for camping

Klamath Falls, Oregon — Families may or may not be going camping this summer, contingent on the reopening of parks and campgrounds. But students at Conger Elementary School aren’t waiting. They pitched tents in their own homes as part of Camp Conger, a school literacy program held May 8.

Originally planned as an evening event at school, Camp Conger became an at-home program when distance learning replaced classroom learning due to COVID-19. Families were encouraged to set up tents or forts, make s’mores, read by flashlight and listen to staff read stories on Facebook throughout their “camping” day.

During its weekly distribution of take-home meals on May 6, Conger also distributed supplies for the literacy day. Every child received a bright fabric backpack, a mini flashlight and a book donated by one of two programs:

Picture and chapter books for kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders came from the SMART Reading program through a partnership with The Ford Family Foundation. SMART has donated 2,195 books district-wide during the COVID-19 school closure.

“We believe in the limitlessness of young people’s potential, and reading is essential to supporting their dreams,” said Holly Stork, area manager for SMART Reading in Klamath and Lake counties. “Supporting young readers and sparking joy through books is a privilege and a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Award-winning science and nature books came from Klamath Falls Honda Subaru through its Subaru Loves Learning program. Over the past few years, the program has given Conger more than a thousand books, each with a custom label and inspirational message added by visitors to the Klamath Falls Subaru showroom and service center.

“We are thrilled to hear the books will be enjoyed by Camp Conger,” said former Conger parent Kathy Bartels, internet director for Klamath Falls Honda Subaru. “I coordinate all of the local Love Promise initiatives, including Subaru Loves Learning and it’s one of my favorites since I know it will have such a positive impact on early learners.”

Conger Principal Julie Bainbridge was pleased by the program’s success.

“Books let you travel anywhere you want to go, and that is especially fun when you’re stuck at home,” she said. “We’re so grateful to our generous donors for helping us make this day possible.”