By Hope College English Education major, Laura Van Oss
Last spring, Professor VanDuinen warned me that she’d be calling on me along with my fellow English Education students to participate in the Big Read come November. The more involved I’ve become with the project, the more excited I’ve become about the opportunity our city has been presented.
The Big Read dares to propose that reading be a communal act. This is how we learned to read. From the very beginning, perhaps at home with Mom or Dad, at school in reading groups and class discussions, reading is something we do together. But many of us, even if we continue to read once we leave the classroom, leave the conversation behind: reading becomes a solitary pursuit. Any reading, I’m about to argue, is incredibly valuable, but I think we miss something when we read alone.
If you think about it, why are we still reading novels anyway, when we have so many faster, shinier forms of entertainment and engagement at our fingertips? In a world that lives online, reading hasn’t gone away.
I believe its because a story on paper is an active and dynamic thing. It is malleable according to the knowledge, perspectives and experiences each reader brings to the words.
Reading is input: witty, tragic, or profound ideas that enter our brains and hopefully stick around for a while. But it’s in conversation that those ideas thrive. They’re considered and argued; they jump from individual to individual and maybe become something entirely new.
So I think we should all jump at this opportunity to read together. Books like To Kill A Mockingbird stay with us because they are universal. But they touch and provoke us all in unique ways.
We now have the chance to share those responses with one another. Old and young, teachers and students, librarians and engineers. We have a common ground in this story and the timeless questions it asks of us.
What a great conversation starter.