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City-wide reading program fosters community of young readers

Grand Rapids Public Library’s One Book, One City program visits MLK Leadership Academy.
Author Sue Stauffacher speaks with MLK Leadership Academy students

Author Sue Stauffacher speaks with MLK Leadership Academy students /Sue Stauffacher

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Every year the Grand Rapids Public Library hosts the One Book, One City reading program for Grand Rapids 4th graders. The program allows the public library to collaborate with individual school libraries for the benefit of Grand Rapids youth. For no cost, area students can attend author book-talks and learn more about writing, reading, and authorship. The Grand Rapids Public Library uses the program to encourage 4th graders city-wide to read and discuss the same book while fostering a young community of readers.

This January, Program leaders selected Sue Stauffacher's book "Special Delivery!" Her book is about a young girl named Keisha and her adventures with her family's animal rescue center.

In 2006 The program also began with Sue Stauffacher. Students read her book "Donuthead." In 2007, students read "Frindle" by Andrew Clemens; in 2008 "Punished by David Lubar and last year "Ellie McDoodle, New Kid in School" by Ruth McNally Barshaw.

"We donate books to all 4th graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools," says Sarah McCarville, the library's Brand and Youth Coordinator. "We [also] offered free author visits to five schools."

Stauffacher visited MLK Leadership Academy on March 22 to talk to students about the program and authorship in general.

"Truth is stranger than fiction," Stauffacher said to students.

Indeed, Stauffacher says she based her book on the true story of people finding alligators in pools and other surprising places. Stauffacher described revision, illustration and authorship to MLK students. She told them about how revision is an on-going writing and life process. She also told the students that finding the right artist for the illustrations is hard work. She encouraged students to pursue their own goals of authorship and encouraged further discussion.

"There are lots of steps in writing," says participating student Emmanuel Alvarez, "she exaggerates what really happens." 

"I liked that  some of her characters were made like her niece," says Jada Brown.

Students learned more about reading, writing and the process of authorship through the program and even more with Stuaffacher's visit. 

"It isn't over until the alligator sings," says Stauffacher, pulling out her stuffed musical alligator as her visit came to an end.

The One Book One City program comes to an end March 31. The Cook Library Center has planned an event on March 30 at 1 p.m, for an afternoon of food, fun and family activities to celebrate the program and Stauffacher's book.

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