For the past five years, Weber State University has collaborated with the Weber County Library, Weber County Commission and Standard Examiner to bring the Ogden community the Weber Reads! program.
Committee members in charge of the program team-up each year to decide what books will be read and what topics discussed. 2012’s theme is “The Founders” and is based off the book Founding America, Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights with notes by Jack Rakove.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about constitutional issues,” said WSU professor of history and Weber Reads! spokesperson Kathryn MacKay. “The issue of slavery in the United States has been talked about over the last couple of years with the Huckleberry Finn emphasis and the slave narratives. The Constitution protected slavery, and we have a whole legacy of that. So, we felt that it was a continuation of this previous discussion, but it’s also an election year. People are interested in politics and issues of democracy.”
Community members of all ages will have an opportunity to read an assortment of books from children’s books and graphic novels to the Rakove collection, all of which are central around the founding fathers and America’s beginnings. Past themes have been focused on slavery issues, Huckleberry Finn, Frankenstein and Beowulf. The committee has decided to study Emily Dickinson after the founders.
“We are picking texts or authors that come in multiple versions,” MacKay said. “It’s trying to make sure this is accessible to all kinds of readers — reluctant readers, avid readers, people that don’t read very well — to really make sure that it’s accessible to everybody.”
The program kicks off on Jan. 11 with a discussion of “English Ideas on Governance” which will be moderated by Steven Francis, WSU professor of history. The discussion begins at 12:30 pm in the Hetzel-Hoellein Room of the Stewart Library.
“What I really value is this collaboration between important institutions in the community like the newspaper, library and university that are really committed to literacy and education” MacKay said. “I think those are important collaborations. That’s one of the strengths of Weber Reads!.”
Since its inception five years ago, the program has gained more participants and speakers over the years. Several WSU faculty members have volunteered to lead discussions on various topics.
“There are many faculty members that incorporate Weber Reads! into their curriculum every year,” MacKay said. “The campus has been a strong supporter of this project, and there are lots of good people doing lots of good things.”
Few reading programs in the country are structured to engage the entire community, making Weber Reads! a unique project for Weber County.
“More people know about it; more people are involved,” MacKay said. We are trying to figure out new ways to present the books. We were encouraging local reading groups to get involved and meet at the library. We just keep trying to think of other ways to encourage this community to keep reading.”