Malden Reads-- A Call Out for Your Participation

Malden Reads is not a spectator sport--- its success depends on widespread and active community participation.

Malden Reads is not a spectator sport

By Anne D’Urso-Rose

     It started three years ago with an idea …what if all of Malden read the same book? 

     Based on a national model, Malden Reads: One City, One Book became a collaborative project led by local residents, community groups, nonprofit organizations, city leaders, and school-based representatives In collaboration with the Malden Public Library.

     In its first year it became a vibrant, expansive program, and we built on that success the following year. But the depth and breadth of the program comes not just from the slate of events offered up by the Malden Reads planning committee, but by the activities and offerings of community organizations that participated in its evolution.

     For example, the Oak Grove Improvement Association (OGIA), a local community group, runs the now annual “Stone Soup” event in collaboration with Malden Reads. Reading the Stone Soup folk tale and engaging young and old to make soup together for those in need of a hot meal has become emblematic of the spirit of the program—bringing the community together over the shared experience of a good story.

     The Partnership for Community Schools created activities to accompany the companion books in their afterschool program. Artwork, dramatic skits, poetry, essay-writing, and even a rap song were inspired by the Malden Reads themes.

     First Parish of Malden offered a worship service based on the “The Soloist,” which was the featured selection the first year. The pastor at the First Baptist Church in Malden likewise offered a homily based on “The Soloist” and incorporated the book’s theme of homelessness into its religious education curriculum. Both years, the YWCA ran a program for teens that explored the books’ themes through drama, mural-making, and community service.

     “Seedfolks of Malden” was an original play created by the theater group at the Immigrant Learning Center and based on the Malden Reads companion book selection “Seedfolks.” It was performed at the Malden Senior Community Center for more than 200 people.

     Friends of Oak Grove Inc. (FOOGI) offered up a “Column Contest” through the K-8 schools based on the journalistic style of “The Soloist.” Young people were encouraged to write about someone they admire from a reporter’s point of view. Winning entries were published in the local press and these beautiful stories were shared with the community.

     Malden Access Television (MATV) has been a lead collaborator in Malden Reads since its inception. Besides helping to plan and develop the program, MATV offers its resources for promotion and publicity. Its staff and members took part in producing creative videos that encourage the community to read the book. Talk show hosts invite Malden Reads committee members on as guests to discuss the books and the overall program.

     MATV also hosted the very special Skype event with author Warren St. John of last year’s program, a chance for the public to engage with the author from his home in New York City.

     The Chinese Culture Connection co-hosted a film screening during last year’s program as part of its “East Meets West” initiative.

     Malden Arts held a “Malden Reads edition” of its quarterly salon and Malden Arts member Susan Burke curated a Malden Reads-themed art exhibit exploring the city’s diverse cultures at the MATV Gallery.

     Malden Youth Soccer took a leading role in last year’s culminating event “A Soccer Extravaganza,” which embodied the spirit of “Outcasts United” by bringing a diverse community together through a popular sport and related activities.

     Other local groups took part by contributing time or resources, hosting book discussions or film screenings, or taking part in panel discussions exploring themes of the books.

     It is this active engagement of so many interlocking community entities that creates the fabric of this project—making it more than just a community read. Malden’s “One City, One Book” program is a tapestry of interwoven threads representing Malden’s diverse community.

     Malden Reads is not a spectator sport--- it needs widespread and active participation.

     What can your community organization, house of worship, business, or civic group do to broaden the scope of this community-building program?

     The Malden Reads committee encourages you first to read the book and be inspired by its topics and themes. Although the program does not kick off until mid-January, if you are someone who would like to take a leading role in involving your community organization in this program, the time to read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie is now.

     Copies are available for loan at the Malden Public Library and can also be purchased from Bestsellers Café in Medford and through MATV (copies supplied by Bestsellers Café).

    Send your ideas for getting involved, developing an activity, or creating an event to maldenreads@gmail.com or by calling co-facilitators Anne D’Urso-Rose at 781-321-6400 or Jodie Zalk at 781-608-6938.

     To find out more about Malden Reads, visit www.maldenreads.org.

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