Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Adventure of Reading Not Lost on Chautauqua County Home Residents

Has the importance and prevalence of reading declined in today’s society?  In a Big Read group presentation at the Chautauqua County Home on February 27th, Brian Bailey and I, Caitlin Skellett, worked to encourage a passion for reading amongst the residents.

Event Background
The Big Read is a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in which participating organizations work with community partners to encourage literacy in local communities.  This is done through book discussions and events in the participating areas.  The program started due to a recent study demonstrating a literacy crisis and showing that reading rates are declining rapidly.  10% of Americans do not read.  This is a loss of 20 million potential readers.  Taking on the challenge of re-instating reading in our community, our group presented a discussion at the Chautauqua County Home with hopes of encouraging resident’s enjoyment of the book.

Our Event
The event held that Chautauqua County Home was successful. The group talked about animal cruelty, necessary punishment, human relations with dogs and Jack London’s life. Most of the members of our audience grew up on farms where they were surrounded by animals including dogs. Several members would repeat the dogs they grew up with, and had throughout their lives, were members of their family. Being members of the family punishment was necessary. Similar to raising a child, if the child made a mistake the child would be punished. Punishment would consist of being grounded, having videos taken away or something similar. The same may hold true when it comes to raising dogs.

Our event at the home was successful and the residents seemed to enjoy themselves talking about the book (the parts that were read at the home). Our group had a board in the front of the room with a map of Buck’s journey. From there, the group followed the map moving along and reaching the wild with activities and discussion questions. With each activity and question the paper Buck (on the board) would move along the map until he reached the wild. When “the wild” was reached the event concluded. The residents seemed to have liked the small visual of Bucks journey. When the board was put up one of the residents said aloud, “Oh that is pretty” the group members looked at her and smiled. She smiled back, gave the group thumbs up and said, “Good job.”
The residents at the event seemed pleased and satisfied with the performance with the group. Furthermore, the residents seemed to appreciate what SUNY Fredonia and the Big Read program did (do) for them and other members of the surrounding areas.

 Audience Response
Presenting to an audience of approximately 20 individuals, all of whom bring something different to the discussion may seem like a challenge, and, although the task wasn’t simple, it was rewarding.  We had some residents who told us they liked reading more than they enjoyed watching television because they could use their imaginations more.  One resident even said that after reading the novel, she wished to travel to Alaska.  
Many members of our audience grew up in a time when reading was one of the only pass time activities they had to engage in.  This gave our group an interesting perspective on the importance of reading in these individual’s lives.
For those members of the audience who had not finished the book by the time our group presented, there was an overwhelming response that they could not wait to finish reading.  Some were even interested in reading Jack London’s biography, Wolf, since our presentation used some information from that book.  Seeing the resident’s faces light up while talking about what reading means to them was encouraging in regards to the future of reading.

The Future of Reading
The future of reading is crucial. The Big Read program aims to tackle the problem of the lack of reading, particularly males from 16 to 25. With the previous in mind, doing an event at the County Home may help increase reading. How? The event probably should have been open to the residents’ family members. Family members include children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. If family members of the residents were allowed to attend the event, they would have seen (as stated above) the glow on the faces of audience members. The glow and the event would show people the enjoyment and “wild” adventure that reading and discussing books has to offer.
How does society fix the problem of the lack reading within the United States? The education system is, perhaps, the most important “thing” that can change to better and help the problem. Though, the education system today is something people are not pleased with. Some argue the education system started to decline with the “No Child Left Behind Act” under George W. Bush. It goes to show that people like to point fingers when something goes wrong or is unsuccessful. The education system isn’t the only “thing” that can change. Parents need to introduce their children to reading through various ways. Though, parents tend to find it is easier to let children watch television or play video games. 

The Big Read is a horse of a different color.  Community partners who participate within the program are beneficial to the areas and people within of the location. Hopefully, the Big read program will tackle the goals set forth with help from students, parents, professors and community partners.

To conclude everything gained from the Big Read program cannot be described with words. Everyone who participated within the program clearly shares a love of literature unmatched by any material object and activity.  Furthermore, the love of literature goes hand-in-hand with the goal of the Big Read, to promote literacy.  Reading is an adventure that can be compared to Buck’s journey, difficult times, loss, love, trust, cruelty and epiphany. All of which prove to be a wild ride.

Please visit the sites below for more information about SUNY Fredonia, the Big Read and the County Home.

1 comment:

  1. The event sounded like it was a success! One of the most rewarding aspects of this initiative is offering as much as one gains. While the Big Read primarily aims to promote reading with younger people, I think having different perspectives is crucial to also consider.

    Even with the invention and progress of technology, I think literature will always have an important role in society and among communities. Story telling is as old as human kind and I don't think technology will ever be able to change that. The medium may change and it seems that this is already happening.

    Sharing stories is important because it is a way to find a connection among other people. Such a connection is critical as a human being. Even though this story was about a dog, the residents and other readers have discovered that this text reaches far beyond a literal interpretation. Thus, is the power of literature.

    Great job, Caitlin and Brian!