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Implement a Community-Wide Reading Program

What is it? A reading program uses a book as a way to encourage community-wide, lifelong learning while bringing people together.  Programs usually consist of an entire community having an opportunity to read a common book, and then participate in events and discussions to learn more about the volume and its topics. As residents discuss the book and its themes, different opinions and reactions are shared and examined.  The book serves as a frame for people to explore their own viewpoints alongside those of others.  Additionally, fostering reading and critical thinking in this way is also a step towards creating a more informed community.  A  reading program brings people together, highlights cultural organizations and assets, and allows families and individuals to explore values and subjects in a non-threatening and entertaining manner.

How has it been used? The library in Pasadena, CA has an annual One City, One Story program where the entire community is engaged in the reading of one book.  The goal of the project is to spark discussion throughout the community.  Numerous formal dialogue sessions are held for community members to share their thoughts about the book.  The author of the chosen book is invited to speak and area institutions are involved.  These organizations offer lectures, art displays, or even concerts related to the themes in the chosen text.  All of these events encourage citizen dialogue.  Even when people are disagreeing, participants learning not only about the book and its themes, but also how to be in conversation as a community. (Source: The City of Pasadena)

Further Reading

­The Big Read – National Endowment for the Arts

Planning Your Community-Wide Read

One City One Book San Francisco – Fall 2009 Guide