The idea of having everyone in a community read the same book at the same time has caught on in Dayton and in cities across America.
The Big Read project, which typically takes place over six weeks in late winter and culminates in April during National Library Week, gets thousands of people across the region reading and discussing a book. Discussion groups — both formal and informal — take place throughout different communities. Hundreds of book groups look forward to adding The Big Read to their schedules.
This year’s Big Read, sponsored by local libraries, book stores, non-profit organizations and the Dayton Daily News, will begin on March 10 and run through April 19. Libraries involved are as far north as Troy, as far south as Springboro-Franklin, as far east as Greene County Public Libraries and as far west as Preble County Public Libraries. Project Read, which supports literacy activities in the area, and the Friends of the Dayton Metro Library also support the effort.
Time to Vote
Community members are now being asked to help make the final book selection. Voting will be taking place from Oct. 1-31 (www.bigread.org).
“I have been told by publishers that our community read is unique because we involve so many partners,” said Jean Gaffney, chair of the Big Read committee and manager of the Dayton Metro Library’s Office of Collection Development. Gaffney first introduced the community read idea to Dayton in 2005, along with her colleague, Mimi Morris.
Gaffney had heard about the idea from other librarians at conferences and on public radio stations. The initial planning group decided the public should make the final selection from a slate of potential titles nominated by the planning committee. The public voting phase of the process typically takes place in the fall with a brief synopsis of each book provided.
After the voting, the community’s book choice is announced and the reading begins.
What’s in store
“It’s wonderful to see people energized around a common topic,” said Sharon Kelly Roth, director of public relations at Books & Co., who has been involved with the project since its inception. “When we read ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ we discussed poverty and homelessness, and trying to get by in our culture. When we read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ there was much discussion about prejudice. With ‘Glass Castle’ we talked about different parenting styles and how that effects children and their growth into adulthood.”
Libraries and book stores, like Books & Co., stock plenty of copies of the chosen title in preparation for the onslaught of requests.
“Sometimes the author is invited to visit Dayton for a public event,” Gaffney said. “Some high school teachers assign the title for students to read and encourage them to attend one of the scheduled book discussions. The Friends of the Library will provide copies of the book for classes when possible.”
How they choose
Books under consideration by the 19-member selection committee must meet a long list of requirements. They must be no more than 300-400 pages in length, engage readers ranging from teens to seniors, be widely available in a variety of formats — print, hard-cover, audio, large print and e-books — so that all members of the community will have access to them.
“A book needs to provide the opportunity for discussion and opinions,” said Roth, who serves on the pre-selection committee. “They can be either fiction or non-fiction, and should be relevant to issues of today. We want to appeal to both new and seasoned readers, and we don’t want to focus on one group of people.”
This will be the community’s ninth Big Read; the project took a hiatus last year.
“The public missed The Big Read last spring,” Gaffney said. “People emailed us, called us and wrote on Facebook that they missed it, so here we are again by public demand.”
The goal of The Big Read is community cohesion, Roth said.
“It’s something we can all participate in that challenges our ideas and gets people thinking in a new direction,” she said. “You might think that when everyone reads the same book they would have the same opinion when they finish, but they don’t. It may surprise you to find out that other people have an entirely different frame of reference.
“By realizing that and discussing it in a group, it expands your tolerance for other ideas and your appreciation for different viewpoints.”
HOW TO VOTE:
Online voting will be available at The Big Read website, www.bigread.org.
Paper ballots will be available at all Dayton Metro Libraries, Books & Co. at The Greene in Beavercreek, and at local universities and book stores Oct. 1-31. Many other public libraries in the Miami Valley area participate in The Big Read and will offer ballots for voting.
Ballots will be counted in early November and the winner announced at that time.
Book discussions and other events centered around the chosen book will take place in the spring. Discussion group schedules and other information will be posted on The Big Read website as they become available.
HERE ARE THE 2014 BIG READ FINALISTS:
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, October, 2012)
In this contemporary coming of age novel, 13-year-old Joe Coutts of the Ojibwe tribe in North Dakota is thrust prematurely into the adult world when his mother is attacked and left unable to communicate. This heart-stirring story of injustice is superbly written with firsthand knowledge of Native American culture and issues.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Random House, September, 2011)
This best-selling fantasy revolves around two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been groomed since childhood to compete against each other until death in a fantastical circus. No one could have predicted that the opponents would fall in love and compromise this competition spanning generations.
“Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf, 2012)
Twenty-two year old Cheryl Strayed, an inexperienced hiker, decides to hike the eleven hundred mile Pacific Crest Trail, and the drama in her life that led to her decision is artfully woven into her memoir. Hiker or not, readers will relate to her quest, the people she meets and her love of the beautiful trail.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD READ?
Here are former choices from past years of THE BIG READ:
2005: “Nickel and Dimed” (Nonfiction)
2006: “To Kill A Mockingbird” (Fiction)
2007: “Glass Castle” (Biography)
2008:” Funny in Farsi” (Biography)
2009: “19 Minutes” (Fiction)
2010: “Dreamers of the Day” (Fiction)
2011: “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (Nonfiction)
2012: “Zeitoun” (Nonfiction)