One book can help unite community

Published 12:07am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What if everyone in the community read the same book and then got together to talk about it?

That’s exactly what many communities across the country are doing.

The One Book, One Community concept began in 1998 when Nancy Pearl, executive director of the Washington Center for the Book in the Seattle Public Library, initiated “If All Seattle Reads the Same Book.”

With funding from the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund and several local sponsors, she invited members of the public to read the novel, “The Sweet Hereafter” by Russell Banks, and brought the author to Seattle for three days to discuss his book in a series of free public venues.

Examples of One Book, One Community projects across the country include:

-”One Book, One County, Read Along the River,” (Grand Rapids, Mich.), “Plainsong,” by Kent Haruf. Established in 2002.

-”One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern,” (Bakersfield, Calif.), “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot.

-”All Iowa Reads,” (Iowa City, Iowa), “Little Wolves,” by Thomas Maltman. Established in 2003.

-“Starkville Reads,” (Starkville), “Condolezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me,” by Condolezza Rice.

The most important factor in a child’s education is learning to read.

Research shows that children who are read to, as well as children who see adults read, have a far greater chance of becoming life-long readers.

Furthermore, students who read for pleasure experience far greater success in school and beyond.

As a community, we have an opportunity to spark the love of reading for our children and give them the chance to see reading as positive and social, rather than just an activity to be completed in a classroom.

Central to the success of the initiative is a commitment from community members to read the Project’s featured text: “I Beat the Odds: from Homelessness to The Blind Side” by Michael Oher. In order to prepare for the fun and varied events, community members are asked to complete the reading by Sept. 20.

Events planned to support our county’s One Book, One Community include:

-Movie night on the bluff: Viewing of “The Blind Side”

-An art contest

-An essay contest

-A community roundtable discussion with an invitation to Michael Oher

-Community book club discussions

Natchez is fortunate to have quite a wide spectrum of participants and supporters. They include: Judge George W. Armstrong Public Library, Natchez Inc., Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Natchez, Adams County Board of Supervisors, Zeta Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Bookland, Cathedral School, Adams County Christian School, Trinity Episcopal Day School and the Natchez-Adams School District.

A kick-off for One Book, One Community is planned for 2 p.m. Friday at McLaurin, West and Frazier elementary schools as well as Adams County Christian School, where students will participate in a balloon release. Students will attach a note with a brief description of a time when they “Beat the Odds.” Each balloon will also include an invitation to participate in One Book, One Community to whomever finds the balloon.

We look forward to this exciting opportunity and hope you will join us for a good time coming together through reading. For updates and more information, like and follow us on: Facebook at One Book One Community-Natchez, MS, Twitter @1book_natchez and on our blog at


Tanisha Smith is the deputy superintendent for the Natchez-Adams School District.