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Chooseco Interview with Everything Summer Camp

CYOA Clip: https://youtu.be/5-Zv9cXSnJM

The Choose Your Own Adventure® books were featured on the Today Show as the perfect “summer camp send-off” books:

“I love these, my sons love these, you can read them time and time again and have a different ending. They are really fun and are great because you are encouraging them [campers] to read. These [books] are also something that you can send them as care packages.”

So it comes as no surprise that Everything Summer Camp wanted to get the insider's scoop on everything Choose Your Own Adventure®! Get to know Chooseco and the history behind the famous series by reading our recent interview with Everything Summer Camp below. It was a blast! 

What is your affiliation to summer camp? Did you go when you were little? Did you send your kids to camp?

A number of our staff have attended camp. Our Publisher Shannon Gilligan attended a riding camp in Craftsbury, Vermont as well as a number of Girl Scout camps. Melissa Bounty, Associate Publisher, attended and then mentored at a summer Gifted & Talented program run by Johns Hopkins. Elizabeth Adelman, our Marketing Manager, worked as a gymnastics counselor. Choose Your Own Adventure founder, R. A. Montgomery, was a camp counselor at the famous Pine Island camp in Maine and loved every minute of it.

Do you have a favorite camp memory from your time at camp? Does your kid?

Each of us has a different memory. Our publisher learned to water ski at riding camp, a sport she still indulges in when possible. Ray spoke fondly about the end-of-camp War Game, invented by the camp’s founder in 1912, and the Saturday Night Show, which would be written and performed by campers and staff. Lizzi recalls the Camp Carnival’s completely silly “Wedding Booth,” and flaunting her many fuzzy pipe cleaners (which stood-in for nuptial bands from her very many weddings).

Did camp help shape who you are today? How?

On a personal level, camp played a role in shaping each of us. We can all agree that camp was the place where we found the courage to do new things on our own. It’s often the first time you are away from home and your parents for the first time.

Has camp helped shape your kid? How?

Ray’s sons Anson and Ramsey attended camp on Lake Champlain. They both got a horrible case of poison ivy. That was the end of traditional camps. Ramsey was a ski racer and attended ski racing camp every summer during high school in Europe or at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

How long have you been in business?

Chooseco was formed in the early 2000’s. Originally we thought we would license the series to a new publisher but then decided to reissue the series ourselves. It’s been back in print for 10 years as of March 2016!

What did you do before this? What is Chooseco’s mission? What influences Chooseco?

The Choose Your Own Adventure® series grew (in part) out of Montgomery’s experiences at an innovative summer school he started in 1967 in the Mad River Valley. Inspired by lessons learned as a camp counselor, and work in a Boston think tank, he implemented game theory and experiential hands-on lesson plans, observing that the most powerful way for kids, or for anyone, to learn something was by doing something one’s self. Chooseco’s mission statement has always been about putting YOU in the driver’s seat and getting kids reading-- especially reluctant readers and kids that are having trouble in a conventional learning environment.

Why this line of business?

Series founder, R. A. Montgomery and wife, Shannon Gilligan, recognized that people felt a deep connect with the original Bantam-era Choose Your Own Adventure® books that played such a large role in getting them reading as kids. Widely commended for its appeal to reluctant readers, the interactive, multiple-choice multiple-ending series, Choose Your Own Adventure, is the 4th-bestselling series for children ever published, with more than 260 million copies sold in 38 languages. Montgomery and Gilligan wanted to pass along that love of reading to the next generation.

“We have found that there is something special, intimate and immediate, about books, especially for kids. We’ve always kept the trim size of our books small, and the typeface has been the same for thirty years. We feel that these distinctions make the book approachable for the reader, and also add to the sense of empowerment and achievement associated with reading a Choose,” Gilligan explains.

Or as Ray once said: “The bottom line is kids will eat these books up, not just because they are about great topics, with fun art and strong writing but because they get to choose. They get to pick where they go, what they do, and all the while they are reading.”

Chooseco’s mission is simple: we believe in the importance of getting kids choosing and reading.

Did summer camp have anything to do with the start of your business or your product development?

The original inspiration for the Choose Your Own Adventure series—and the realization that interactivity in the education space is critical for helping kid learn and read—was discovered at camp. Chooseco founder, R. A. Montgomery, started an innovative summer school that incorporated many of the practices he observed as a camp counselor in Maine:

“I remembered my experiences as a camp counselor, where we were taking mountain trips, canoe trips, hiking trips, all summer long. We were out of the camp more than we were in it. What I observed is that experiential learning is the most powerful way for kids, or for anyone, to learn something. It's not lecturing, it's experiential, hands-on learning. To a great extent, that's gaming, that's game theory. I got very interested in experiential learning, and I got very interested in game theory."

It was from this interest in game theory that Montgomery then implemented an interactive, hands-on approach to a summer school he founded, ultimately leading to the creation of the interactive, multiple-ending series, Choose Your Own Adventure. And it all started at summer camp!

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Along the lines of product development, our newest title PRINCESS ISLAND focuses on YOU as a princess sent off to Princess Island summer camp for some polishing up on your royal skills and a whole lot of adventure. You can read more about Princess Perri’s story here: http://www.cyoa.com/collections/dragonlarks/products/princess-island

Princess Island Adventure Book

There were also a number of Bantam-era Choose Your Own Adventure books with a camp setting. There was even one entitled, Summer Camp, in the Skylark series for younger readers.

Summer Camp Choose Your Own Adventure Book

Which came first—the idea for your business or the idea for products?

Bantam Books, now a part of Random House, launched of the Choose Your Own Adventure series in 1979. We founded Chooseco to publish the series anew in 2006.

Why are your products beneficial for summer campers?

There are SO many benefits to bringing Choose Your Own Adventure books with you to camp. They help encourage a sense of possibility, and make you realize you have choices. The books lend themselves well to reading and choosing as a group. Also, because there are multiple stories in each book, the story branches can be relatively quick. The books also have been known to inspire real life adventures!

Is there anything else you’d like campers to know about your brand or your products?

Choose Your Own Adventure has been called “a literary movement.” And indeed, it continues to be, because grownups alike keep noticing the same thing—Choose Your Own Adventure books get kids reading.

CYOA appeals because kids are put in the driver's seat. They are the mountain climber, they are the doctor, they are the deep sea explorer. They make choices, and so they read.

The summer months are perfect for reading the books that YOU really want to read, outside of the school months. Choose Your Own Adventure books keep kids reading during the off-hours and months, which are critical for developing literacy.

Plus, camp makes summer fun… why not make reading fun, too? YOU decide what happens next.

Check out Princess Island here!

Lizzi Adelman behind the scenes books choose your own adventure princess princess island readers



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