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Reading towards a brighter future

One Book, One City for Kids invites the community to celebrate literacy Monday, March 12.
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Come Celebrate at the Spider Spectacular!

The Main Library will host a night of food, fun, and family activities on Monday, March 12 at 6:30pm. Meet author James Preller and get your book signed. Enjoy Reader's Theater, magnetic poetry, Mad Libs, games, and more.

James Preller's book was chosen for One Book, One City for Kids this year

James Preller's book was chosen for One Book, One City for Kids this year

This article was written by Samantha Wiers, Kelsey Sterkenburg, Katie Feikema, and Jared Bosveld for EN 102H: Digital Literacy at GRCC. 

One book. One hundred and forty-four pages. Sixteen hundred kids whose literary lives are being improved each year.

For the past six years, the Grand Rapids Public Library has sponsored, organized, and coordinated a reading program called One Book, One City for Kids. The goal of this program is to encourage elementary aged students in schools throughout the Grand Rapids area to read. Sarah McCarville, one of the coordinators, says the program aims to “inspire readers to bring story ideas and themes to life through discussion.” As part of this program, the whole city is invited to a “Spider Spectacular” at the Main Library on Monday, March 12 to meet the author of this year’s selected book and enjoy a night of food, fun and activities highlighting and celebrating literacy in our community. 

In the seven years since One Book, One City for Kids began in 2006, the library has selected books that showcase positive themes of diversity and acceptance. But Sarah McCarville adds, “We really choose books based upon the children's interests, and hope to get the children excited and interested in reading.”

Every year in January, copies of the selected book are delivered to each participating school. Every student receives his or her own copy, and the kids then read the books from then until March, which is Reading Month. This year, through support from the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation Endowment Fund, the library was able to distribute copies of James Preller’s book, Along Came Spider to about 1600 kids in the 4th grade.

Preller’s book discusses the lives of two boys who have been friends and neighbors all of their lives, but who encounter a strain on their relationship as they are forced to face the pressures of growing older. The story gives an honest perspective as to what goes on in the lives of pre-teens and the social adjustments they must face.

Preller captures some aspects of the diversity that children must grapple with in the classroom and presents them in an engaging and thought-provoking way. The author explained, “I spent a year visiting a fifth-grade classroom, off and on at random times. I made observations, took notes and waited for a story idea to emerge out of that experience. After a while, I began to notice a few students who were outsiders, misfits, and that’s where I focused my attention. At that point, I read a lot of books on Autism and Asperger’s, and again felt an affinity to those kids on that spectrum. A lot of Trey’s character grew out of that research, and whatever I could sense from my own experiences, observations, and intuitions.” Preller explains, “I hope [my book] offers what a story gives every reader – an opportunity to walk around in someone else’s shoes, to see how someone else lives, and thinks and feels. I really believe that’s the root of empathy, compassion, tolerance and understanding.”

This program has been beneficial for the students in participating schools. McCarville says that the library has received many wonderful thank-you notes over the last several years, “letting us know how thrilled [students] were to own the book, and to have a chance to talk with the author.”   

In 2007, when the program was fairly new, a couple of fourth grade students as well as teachers were asked about One Book, One City for Kids. One student replied, “I enjoyed and I [felt] uplifted and excited to read...the book Frindle...with the [Grand Rapids Community College] group.”  Marylou Kosty, a fourth grade teacher, was also interviewed back in 2007 about the program. She stated, “It has been great motivation for the kids to continue reading the book because the adult students give them a goal…even my lower level readers who don’t normally read chapter books [have] been really motivated to continue into the book so that has been encouraging.”  

The One Book, One City for Kids program also provides a special occasion for several randomly chosen schools. These schools will be able to meet the author, James Preller, as he will make a special visit to the school. However, even if you’re not attending one of the selected schools, don’t despair, for there is still hope. On March 12, Preller will be at the GRPL Main Library at 6:30 to meet and greet students and also to sign autographs as part of the “Spider Spectacular” celebration, a night of food, fun and family activities. 

One Book, One City for Kids is proof that Grand Rapids values literacy and is dedicated to encouraging the next generation’s appreciation of reading. So, come celebrate. 


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