By GUY LAMOLINARA
One of the many advantages of being a partner of the Center for the Book is the opportunities it provides for networking with other reading and literacy organizations.
This year was no exception. On March 10, approximately 40 of the Center’s partners met at the Library of Congress to exchange ideas and seek new partners to maximize their reading-promotion efforts.
“The wide variety of organizations represented really shows our collective power,” said Mitali Chakraborty, outreach director for First Book, an organization that provides new books to children in need. “It makes you truly believe that as a group we are making an impact and a difference in society.”
The morning began with a welcome from John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book. “This meeting is a highlight for the Center for the Book. It gives us the opportunity to think about what partnership means: how we can work together on old and new partnerships to increase the influence our efforts have in reading promotion and literacy.”
Following self-introductions, Cole asked representatives Sarah Baldwin and Susan Benne of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America to briefly discuss the National Collegiate Book-Collecting Contest.
“Many people are not aware of how book collectors both enhance and found libraries,” said Baldwin. “Yet no better example could be before us than the Library of Congress, which evolved out of the collection of Thomas Jefferson [which he sold to the United States after the original Library of Congress was burned by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812]. …
“Sixty years ago, no one was collecting African-American material. Collectors led the way. It becomes very important to show students how exciting and imaginative book-collecting can be.”
Established in 2005 by Fine Books & Collections magazine to recognize outstanding book-collecting efforts by college and university students, the competition aims to encourage young collectors to become accomplished bibliophiles. The magazine conducted the program before turning over leadership to the new collaboration of institutional partners—the Center for the Book and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, with major support from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. Complete details are at www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-033.html.
Read.gov was developed to bring together in one place all the reading and literacy resources on the various Library of Congress websites. It features pages specifically designed for kids, teens, adults, and parents and teachers.
Launched at the National Book Festival in September, “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure” episodic story is the highlight of the site. (See Information Bulletin, November 2009.) A collaborative effort between the Center for the Book and the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA), the popular site offers a new episode by a different author and illustrator every other Friday.
Mary Brigid Barrett, executive director and president of the NCBLA, and Geri Eddins, the organization’s program director, were on hand to discuss the project.
“The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is an adventure. It was based on the game [episodic storytelling] that we all played as a kid, and I think that is why it has been so successful. … We wanted writers who represented a range of ages and writing styles. … The authors are doing this with very little time. We wanted to replicate the game as closely as possible. So they are loosely edited.”
Barrett then turned the program over to Eddins, who discussed the educational resources that accompany the story.
“When we were planning the story, we knew we wanted to expand the impact of the story with supporting educational materials. We have created an educational resource center with the Butler Center for Children’s Literature at Dominican University.”
Rachael Walker from WETA’s Reading Rockets talked about how she has developed a series of writing prompts to accompany the episodes, called “The Exquisite Prompt.” The prompts are based on either the author’s life or the author’s episode. Walker read a message she received from a teacher in California.
“’I assigned students a writing prompt today and the students cheered. Yes, they were that excited. I had just introduced ‘The Exquisite Prompt’ inspired by ‘The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.’”
“They were cheering about writing,” Walker said. “Now this is a cool thing. … We are hearing from teachers that not only are we inspiring kids to write and try new types of writing, but also that their writing is improving.”
Following Walker’s presentation several more Center for the Book partners spoke about their activities.
That afternoon, attendees were treated to a special visit from Hilda the Goat, the animated “spokesgoat” for ReadAloud.org . Jennifer Liu Bryan, author of “Hilda, a Very Loyal Goat,” and Bob Robbins represented the organization, which is dedicated to encouraging people of all ages to read aloud to children. Robbins demonstrated (using Skype) how kids can interact with the animated figure Hilda. Hilda travels the country talking about the importance of reading.
When the meeting concluded later that day, Cole thanked all the attendees for their contributions to the success of the Center for the Book’s mission.
“It is our privilege to host this meeting,” said Cole. “Every year I learn more about the great work all of you are doing.”
Guy Lamolinara is the communications officer for the Center for the Book.