Wednesday, February 5, 2014

One Book, One Philadelphia

Waiting for a taxicab in front of Philadelphia's 30th Street train station, I looked up to admire the city's skyline. In the distance there was a tall building, atop of which was a scrolling electronic message board. The message that scrolled across the board and lit up the evening sky was, "One Book, One Philadelphia."
"Reading" is just one of many great murals in the city of Philadelphia.
Image via this link

I had just arrived in town for the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Soon, an available taxi pulled up. As I sat in the back of the cab, which swerved through city streets wet with newly fallen snow, I pondered the slogan: "One Book, One Philadelphia." I later learned that it's just one of many nationwide reading programs in which a city encourages all of its inhabitants to read the same book at the same time.

The first "One City, One Book" program got underway in Seattle, Washington, in 1998. The program was begun by Nancy Pearl, an American librarian who is so famous that she has her own action figure. In 1998, Pearl, who was then the deputy director of the Seattle Public Library, started the "If All Seattle Read the Same Book" project. It was a huge success. In fact, the project was so successful that other U.S. cities introduced similar projects of their own. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's "One Book" program was founded in 2003 by the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Mayor's Office.

Every year since 2003, the Free Library and Mayor's Office have announced the pick for the "One Book, One Philadelphia" program. This year, the book all city residents are asked to read is The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers

This year's pick for "One Book, One Philadelphia."
 Image via simplygottahaveit/

According to the Free Library's website, The Yellow Birds "tells the story of a young solider struggling to find meaning in his harrowing experiences in Iraq, while suffering profound guilt over his friend and fellow soldier's death, as well as alienation from community and family upon his return home."

While the people of Philadelphia read The Yellow Birds, more than 100 events related to the book will be held throughout the city. These events will include panel discussions, film screenings, musical performances, and more. This year's program kicked off on January 22 with a special event featuring the book's author, Kevin Powers, who is also a veteran of the U.S. Army. The "One Book, One Philadelphia" program will conclude on March 19, 2014.

The purpose of "One Book, One Philadelphia," according to the Free Library's website, is to "promote reading, literacy, and libraries, and to encourage the greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book." Discussing this year's book, the Free Library's President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon told, "The Yellow Birds is a gripping and thought-provoking novel about the grim reality of war and the struggles that so many of our young soldiers face upon their return home. It's truly a powerful choice, and I am excited for the important discussions that will be sparked."

To know more about the "One Book, One Philadelphia" program, go to THIS LINK.

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