Steamboat Living: Love of literacy: BookTrails program gets local kids reading |

Steamboat Living: Love of literacy: BookTrails program gets local kids reading

Students of the page: BookTrails founder Emily Krall and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall with North Routt readers.

There’s no reading between the lines: Emily Krall’s new BookTrails program is opening the doors for local children to open pages.

Krall, the daughter of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore owners Ronald and Susan Krall, started the nonprofit BookTrails — a literacy learning program for children — in 2012, and its quick rise is a testament to her model of mixing outdoor education and activity with reading. “Opening a book is the quickest way to take an adventure,” she says.

Raised as a reader, Krall moved to Steamboat from Philadelphia in ninth grade and attributes her appreciation for the natural world to her childhood here. After stints as an environmental educator and naturalist in Boulder, she returned to Steamboat and approached her parents with a community outreach concept that could get young people talking about books. BookTrails began as several weeklong reading and adventure camps held on local ranches and attracted 60 local children in its first year. Those numbers rose to 100 last summer, with 16 camps planned in 2014.

Based outdoors, the camps range in theme from pioneering to Egyptian myths, with carefully chosen books taking children on different journeys every week. Kids might re-enact battles one session and build a solar oven the next. And the emphasis is always on the natural environment.

Ranchers who host the groups are thrilled local children are gaining an appreciation for Routt County’s heritage. “I love that a child could be driving by the ranch after attending a camp and remember fondly the time he or she had there,” Fetcher Ranch caretaker Molly Lotz says. “The impact the program has had on kids here has been immeasurable.”

Although camps form the basis of BookTrails, it also offers year-round learning. After-school and tutoring programs began last year and now help nearly 40 students. “But we want to stay small,” Krall says, touting a maximum 5:1 student-to-staff ratio. “Knowing our students is so important.”

Krall also ensures physical activity is part of the mix, often having children play flag football or other games between chapters. Whatever she’s doing, it’s working. Last fall, BookTrails secured a grant from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation to fund a free program for South Routt Elementary students enrolled in the town’s after-school program. Such scholarships, she adds, are a vital component in fostering a love of literacy. “It’s all about fostering self-esteem and finding ways to create lifelong readership,” she says.

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