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As librarians, we tend to take for granted our love of reading. As we gather around our conference, lunch, and dinner tables our conversations often fall back on old favorites we recommend to a reluctant reader, new authors that are going to be the next big thing, and books that surprised our sensibilities or generated controversy. But what if we couldn’t have these conversations? For many adults and children living in our local communities, reading and discussing books is simply not part of their daily lives because of low literacy rates.
In January 2007, KPBS, San Diego’s local public broadcasting station, and the San Diego Public Library (SDPL) launched “One Book, One San Diego,” a community-wide reading initiative designed to educate and enlighten on topics and themes of concern to our community while promoting reading as a source of pleasure and enrichment. This campaign is similar to some found in other cities, but with the distinction of having a public television and radio station join forces with a public library.
When I heard that the District of Columbia Public Library was receiving a set of high-quality posters of American art for each site—thanks to the NEH/ALA Picturing America grant—I couldn’t have been more excited. Our staff of 50 children’s and teen librarians had just received training in Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). They had new-found knowledge that could bring these images to life in programs for any age group. Now they would have resources to use while their training and enthusiasm were fresh.
On June 8, 2009, the ALA’s Great Stories CLUB sent me to Crossroads juvenile detention center in East New York, Brooklyn. ALA’s Lainie Castle put out a call to Penguin, my publisher, looking for the wonderful YA author Paul Volponi, to whom I am sometimes compared—a great compliment to me but maybe not so great for Mr. Volponi. Alas, Penguin’s author appearance coordinator, Emily Heddleson, said, “We don’t have Paul Volponi, but I can get you Paul Griffin. He will be more than happy to go.” And I was.