The Richmond Public Library is launching their latest reading initiative this week. The idea stemmed from PBS’ Great American Read and aims to engage residents with pop-up events across the city. WCVE intern Yasmine Jumaa has more for Virginia Currents.
Patty Parks: I don't think we have 100 here...
At the Richmond Public Library, Patty Parks walks toward a row of built-in shelves filled with books.
Parks: We do have, let's see, The Hunger Games, Gilead, Gone With the Wind, Catcher in the Rye.
There’s Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston... and one book that had a significant impact on Parks.
Parks: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. That was mine. That book subliminally, made me become the librarian that I am because in this book she talks about how the library was so important to her all the time. So I know that reading that book made me eventually end up being a librarian.
Parks was inspired by a PBS initiative, to introduce a city-wide effort to promote reading in Richmond. Over the next 100 Days, the project calls on 100 people to promote their favorite titles from The Great American Read’s list of 100 books.
Parks: So any one of the 100 days this city is talking about a book and then that we think will just reverberate.
Parks: And then I brought in all these people and said, what do you think and they said yes.
Edith Ridderhof: I love the library.
This is Edith Ridderhof, she’s a graphic designer and a volunteer with the 100 Days project.
Ridderhof: There are so many things here and so many resources and they're free and I think too many people in the city aren't aware of that and I'm hoping that increases that awareness and increases awareness about the Great American Read at the same time.
Another collaborator, the Library’s Nancy Buck, says almost 80 of the 100 books on The Great American Read list have been checked out.
Nancy Buck: It has engaged people and Intrigue people.
Genres include science fiction, magical realism, action, adventure, dramas, and coming of age.
Georgie Green, a longtime library volunteer says people are revisiting classics...and some exploring them for the very first time.
Green: Everybody has been writing in and saying ‘Oh, you know, I really haven't read Catcher in the Rye. I mean, I thought I did but I don't think I did.’ You know, so you know, they are, they're all coming up with all these books that they have, you know, not read that are on the list that they really want to.
Green pulls out her copy of a book, that she says bears many fond memories.
Green: This book just stayed with me, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
Years ago, she and her grandson read it together.
Green: We not only read it together, but we listened to it in the car just in case we lost anything when he was spending the night and sleeping over. But, this book just stayed with me.
Her story exemplifies the power of books, and the pull they have in bringing families together.
Sequoia Ross: I saw the list and it was amazing, a lot, a lot of the books I’ve already read.
That’s Sequoia Ross, also known as Chef Coco…
Ross: So I go out into the neighborhood and and teach folks how to take ingredients that they've been preparing in not so healthy ways and show them new ways to eat. So a new perspective on Old food.
A book lover, she says reading has left a lasting imprint on her heart.
Ross: I just remember being being a child and buying a book and not even breaking the seal like kind of I didn't want was like just just open it just a little bit, it had to still smell new and I didn't let people borrow my books. And if I told them they could I said ‘please, take care of my book.’ I think we’re just gonna inspire people to just get that back. That love of reading.
Ross signed up to be a book advocate. These volunteers will try to convince people to read their selections at public places across the city.
Ross: I chose the books that really impacted me the most in my life, and one was by Sister Souljah and that is The Coldest Winter Ever.
The other Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. One reading will take place during one of her cooking demonstrations at the Birdhouse farmer’s market next week.
Ross: You know, I want to keep people guessing. I want people to really get in there and read so just give them a little taste a little taste of the dialogue um within the book.
Ross: I think the the people are going to just be drawn to that energy to say I really need to check out this book. I need to see this book is all about and what's what is better than opening up a book. I do not know I do not know.
Project organizers are urging residents to get involved. Ridderhof says freedom of expression is encouraged.
Ridderhof: We were laughing and said you could do an interpretive dance you could do a skit you could sing about it. You could do a rap. You could write a poem.
Groups can sign up to advocate for a book collectively. Parks says a family plans to do one together.
Parks: The mother is a dancer and then she has the two girls. I think they're planning on something spectacular.
Organizers say the daily events, 5-15 minutes in length, will come together organically. Green and Parks say these pop-up events are becoming more popular in the city.
Green: For instance like the Lit Fest, um, The Mozart Festival. I mean we were listening to arias in an ice cream parlor, why not? You know, when I do the books, you know, I think this is Richmond is open and I think that they will really uh, really embrace it.
Parks: I think I just am passionate about access to information and resources and uh, you know being sure that people can read and and and know that the whole world can open up to them and live it vicariously if not, you know, actually.
The 100 Days, 100 Books project lasts through October 11th. For Virginia Currents, I’m Yasmine Jumaa, WCVE News.