Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Community Unites Through "Wildly Entertaining" Book Choice

Jennifer Smith has served on Read to Succeed’s Literacy Council for over 2 years and joined the One Book Committee shortly after The Hunger Games was selected for this year's book. Maybe you've heard her talking about the book out in the community – even in some traditionally "quiet places!" Here she shares her experience with this year's One Book selection:

“One Book, One Community” – what a powerful statement and goal the One Book initiative takes on each year. One Book's goal is to encourage the entire community to read the selected book and to then discuss it and the importance of literacy in our community and everyday lives. I feel as though this year’s One Book selection of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has accomplished just that.

The wildly entertaining choice of The Hunger Games is definitely a page turner versus the previous year’s choice, and to be honest, this has been the first book I have ever completed in less than five days! The writing style of Suzanne Collins is to be admired and praised for keeping my attention, and the attention of many others, so well. Another major accomplishment I am finding with this selection is how diverse the readers are. This year there have been children as young as 12 and 13 reading the book, and adults well into their 70s enjoying it, too. Talk about a wonderful opportunity to share an experience across generations and cultures through reading!

In my personal experience, the book led me into a conversation with a complete stranger – a conversation that was simple and brief but one that I will never forget. I was sitting in the “Quiet Room” (waiting on a massage) and quietly reading The Hunger Games, when suddenly the woman next to me blurted out, “Oh, The Hunger Games, I have read that book, and loved it.”

My first thought was, Ok, this is the quiet room, why is this lady talking and disturbing others?, but then I realized, Wow, what a great opportunity to talk with someone about the book and literacy. So, we carried on a short conversation about the book, about how it is this year’s One Book selection and about literacy needs in our community. Then she also shared with me about how she enjoyed the rest of the series by Suzanne Collins and recommended I read the other two books as well. I am sure our conversation could have continued on for much longer, but it was time for my massage and I was called back to my room.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but think about what a unique experience that was, all brought together through reading a book. This situation would not have been made possible if I were simply sitting there thinking about a movie or listening to music on my iPod; instead it was the physical presence of that book in my hand that opened the doors of communication.

Jennifer Smith works for United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties as the Coordinator of Community Impact. She has served on Read to Succeed’s Literacy Council for over 2 years and is now a member of the One Book Committee. Working at United Way allows her to apply a degree in Social Work to identify issues and needs in the community, and the partnership now shared between United Way and One Book is bringing attention to various issues and informing members of the community on how they can work together to make a difference.

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