BookTrails' mission is to foster literacy in all people and promote access to literacy programs for all children. BookTrails aims to design programs that create new ways to experience the joys of reading and writing through experiential learning.
The goals of BookTrails are:
1. BookTrails will provide literacy education in the communities for which we serve.
2. BookTrails will identify literacy education needs in our communities and create programs to address those needs.
3. BookTrails will use reading and writing as tools to teach place-based lessons, centered around the heritage, culture, environment, and history of the area.
4. BookTrails will strive to ensure that every local child has the opportunity to participate in BookTrails programs.
Executive Director Emily Krall founded BookTrails in December 2011 with the goal of starting a reading-based summer program. Many of her life experiences provided the impetus for her vision and action. These include her family's business of an independent bookstore, her own positive experiences at summer camp, her degree in environmental science, and her involvement as a teacher at the Thorne Nature Experience in Boulder, CO.
Krall's education in environmental studies, her work at Thorne, and her lifelong participation in outdoor exploration informed the integration of reading, literacy and outdoor education that is at the heart of BookTrails. While working for Thorne, she became well known for integration of outdoor experiences and literature. There was an excitement that the students garnered from reading outside and it became clear to her that there were substantial benefits from combining her two loves of reading and outside experiences.
When Krall moved back to Steamboat, she became more involved with her family's business, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. In that role, she spoke with many parents who expressed their desire for more summer opportunities that would provide their children with an educational experience. Krall responded to this need by launching the BookTrails summer camp, called Reading on Ranches Camp. It is a literacy enrichment program that aims to foster a love of reading and environmental stewardship. Both strong and struggling readers thrived in this summer camp environment. The gifted readers enjoyed the opportunity to read more while spending time outside and creative reading activities, and the struggling readers improved their skills through the exposure to multi sensory learning and positive role models. BookTrails' Reading on Ranches Summer Camp went so well after the inaugural summer that parents asked for programming to continue into the school year.
Krall then planned and implemented the BookTrails School Year Program. This included reading-based programs held on the days off of school. Many parents asked for scholarship funding to be able to send their children to BookTrails programs. BookTrails had been able to provide scholarships to Reading on Ranches Camp participants with money acquired through a Summer Camp Scholarship Fundraiser, but Krall had not foreseen the need for scholarship aid for her after school program. She recognized the need to develop the BookTrails Scholarship Program, a fiscally sponsored 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of Colorado Student Care. This Scholarship Program became a reality in April of 2013.
The program continued to grow, eventually to serving over 120 children in the Summer of 2014. As BookTrails grew and continued to integrate more programs, it became clear that the organization would thrive best as a full non-profit entity. An informal board of advisors transformed into a formal Board of Directors and in January of 2015, BookTrails earned their own 501(c)(3) status and continued to fundraise towards larger goals to serve an increase of students.
"My children loved having real activities that connected them with books."
"My daughter increased her confidence in reading in a group setting. She was really excited about the books they read."
"All the activities around the book made it all come alive."
"During the camp you read from 5 different books - our son now wants to read all of them."