Harrisonburg Collaborates in Community Reading Program

Junior Hannah Chappell-Dick reading the "Book for the Burg" selection.

Junior Hannah Chappell-Dick reading the “Book for the Burg” selection.

For the first time, James Madison University, Massanutten Regional Library, EMU, and the city of Harrisonburg are collaborating on a community read project called “Book for the Burg.”

Amanda Bodle, program coordinator, explained the purpose of the project.“The program, ‘Book for the Burg,’ is about engaging the community in conversations about issues raised by a thought-provoking book and was inspired by a national model of community reading programs.”

Events for “Book for the Burg” will be happening all through the next couple of months until Apr. 14. The Civically Engaged Students Conference is scheduled for Mar. 21.

On Mar. 29 at 2 p.m. EMU will be welcoming Nadene Brunk, founder of Midwives for Haiti, in the Strite Conference room to host the event “Saving the Lives of Mothers and Babies in Haiti: The Midwives for Haiti Project.” Information and registration for these events is available on the “Book for the Burg” website.

“Prior to joining JMU, I was in a community with an annual ‘One Book, One Community’ program co-sponsored by the city and the university,” Bodle said. “Similarly, that program included many events planned around the themes in the book selection and appealed to the members of the community and campus.”

The chosen book is “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World,” by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder.

“We selected a book to serve as common ground for generating conversations and events,” said Bodle. “Far from just an entertaining read, though, the book challenges each reader to ask himself/herself questions about justice, ethical decision making, and his individual role in a global world.”

The program will include guest lectures, facilitated dialogues, and an art exhibit that focuses on the themes of the book.

Instructional Service Librarian Stephanie Bush said, “we [the EMU library] were attracted to this program because of the connections we could

build within the community. It is a good opportunity for us to publicize our strengths and the work that we do.”

While “Book for the Burg” is all about “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” students do not need to have read the book to participate in any of the events that are being held.

“We really aimed to make the book accessible. We understand how busy students are and to understand the themes of the book you do not need to read it,” said Bush.

Bodle mentioned some of the themes that the program will be focusing on.

“One of our challenges is that sustainability is often used narrowly referring to only environmental considerations. However, when we have to report on sustainability, we have to consider the way economic, environmental and social dimensions of these issues are interconnected.

“While not a book about sustainability, ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ raises questions about human health, access to resources, economic development, the welfare of future generations and many other social and economic issues as it tells Farmer’s story.

“We want participants to recognize these ethical questions and the interdependence of humans and the environment. ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ includes many situations where these connections are illustrated, which is why this book became the jumping-off point for this year’s slate of ‘Book for the Burg’ programs.”

Jon Shaffer, Community Engage- ment Coordinator from Partners in Health (the non-profit featured in “Mountains Beyond Mountains”) will conduct a Community Organizing Workshop, during which students can share their community work and meet others engaged in service and activ- ism.

“Two events have been held to date – a workshop on ethical reasoning and sustainability and a book discussion group,” said Bodle.

“Both events have been well- attended by both campus and community members and have resulted in meaningful dialogue around important issues. Overall, we have had a great response from a variety of community members who are contributing to the program.”

“Mountains Beyond Mountains” is currently available in the library.

-Devon Fore, Ads Manager, Style Editor; photo by Ellen Roth

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