By Kassie Simmons | June 1, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT – Updated June 1 at 7:11 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – With summer almost here for many students, reading a book may not be top of mind for many kids, but some officials hope opening a book will create a new story for our community.
Most summer reading programs focus on reading as many books as possible, but a new initiative in New Hanover County only uses three books with the goal of creating change.
Today the nation is described by many as “divided and hurting” but what if the solution for healing was as simple as reading a book? New Hanover County leaders hope it’s at least a place to start.
“The only way we’re going to get better is — we’ve got to talk about it and we’ve got to learn to understand and get as much information as we can about differences,” said New Hanover County Chief Diversity and Equity Officer Linda Thompson. ”Bring the walls down so we can come together and have great conversations.”
That conversation is the aim of a new summer reading program called “Read Across the County” with a goal of bringing people together from all walks of life and it’s centered around three special books.
“Each of these books has a family focus,” said library director Paige Owens. “I mean, The Home Place — it’s about growing up where J. Drew Lanham’s grandmother grew up. The Someday Birds — it’s about a cross-country quest to be with his father. And Ruby’s Birds — the little girl convincing her family after church to take a walk to the park and look at birds together.”
Thompson wasn’t sold on the book’s birdwatching themes at first, but she soon realized the bigger picture.
“It’s about the birds through other perspectives and the joy that people from different cultures, different backgrounds, varying abilities and how they’ve enjoyed watching birds and experiencing them,” said Thompson.
After a year of kids out of schools and patrons away from libraries, Thompson hopes they feel the same.
“It seems like a very cool book,” said 9-year-old Atiya Johnson, who plans to read The Someday Birds with her brother. “Sometimes, I can’t go out because of COVID, so I can’t get new books. It feels good because now I don’t have to read the books that I’ve already read.”
“Our county needs something to pull us together, at this point,” said community member Jan Brewington, reading The Home Place.
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