Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reading at the Crossroads--1

Jan. 21, 2002 -- 1

If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book – Think About It

So, how are you doing on those New Years’ resolutions? Eating better? Getting more exercise? Reading more good books? Reading more? Good books? On this last resolution, or if there is a lack of resolution for such a resolution, help has arrived.

Since early last year a committee made up of Vigo County Public Library staff and citizens from the community have been working on a program that may be unique in the nation. It’s called, “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book.” This program will have its formal unveiling at a noon Brown Bag program in the Swope Art Museum on Jan. 31, 2002. It’s free and all are invited to participate, ask questions and make suggestions.

The idea and goal of the program is simple: Get the people of Vigo County to read the same book.

What will such a program accomplish? We can say with Tony Soprano, “It’s complicated.”

This “what” question is not just the complicated part, it’s the hard part. Try on some of these denials, rationalizations, excuses and evasions for not reading and see how they fit: “I don’t have time.” “I did that in school.” “I don’t know what to read.” “Books are expensive.” “Books weigh too much.” “I have a computer.” And the ever popular, “I would rather eat and sleep and watch television.”

Yet, and this is where the complications set in, most of these same people would say that reading books is a “good thing.” Reading serious, informative, humorous, and challenging books is given lip service support, but between this lip support, and the actual engaged brain page turning required, the “good thing” of reading is abandoned. Why is this?

Moving from the personal to the public level, who hasn’t heard and nodded in agreement with the regular pronouncements of “having books in the home” is an excellent way to encourage children and young people to read. But why is it we never hear public service announcements urging adults in those homes to pick up and read books? Why aren’t we all ready and willing to demonstrate to children and young people as well as to ourselves that books and reading are worth our time as well as theirs?

“It’s complicated.”

We personally avoid what we hold to be a good thing; we publicly encourage others to pursue that which we ignore in our own lives. Think about it.

You will be happy to learn that these complications are not what “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” is about. “If All” is a program designed to encourage, cajole, bribe, inspire, and generally make it easy and interesting for readers, and readers who don’t read, to get involved in a county wide program (the first in the country as far as can be discerned) which will choose one book ( “the readers choose the book” element is also a nationwide first) for all of Vigo County to read.

How will all of this work? Simply and briefly put, three books have been chosen by the “If All” committee for the readers of Vigo County to read, discuss, vote on. Readers will have the opportunity to join in the discussions or just listen to discussions of these books at library programs, at informal gatherings in public settings such as local coffee houses and restaurants. And, of course, many will be reading at home. All readers are encouraged to vote for the one book out of the three which they feel deserves the honor and attention of all of Vigo County. Votes for your choice can be submitted as individuals and you may also vote as part of a reading-discussion group.

Bare bones, that’s the what and how of “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book.” It’s an exciting, audacious, and potentially transforming program. Individuals and the community can be empowered through this program. Books are storehouses of insight and energy, information and emotion. More of us need to take the time to enjoy and use reading on a regular basis.

Make that resolution now: Read more good books in 2002! Start by attending the “If All” kick-off program, Jan. 31, noon at the Swope Art Museum, Seventh and Ohio. The three books the community will be reading and voting on will be announced at that meeting. Sherri Wright, Director, Stage Work Shops, Inc. will introduce the books with live readings. Brochures describing the “If All” program and Guides to the three books will be available to individuals and interested reading groups. If you cannot attend, these materials are available at the Vigo County Public Library. And watch this newspaper for more news on “If All.”

gary daily









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