Reading Between the Lines: A Q&A with Hayward Public Library
Community members participate in The Big Read-A-Thon. Photo courtesy of Hayward Public Library, City of Hayward, California
The newest addition to The Big Read library, In the Time of the Butterflies tells the story of the four Mirabal sisters, who participated in underground efforts to topple Rafael Leonidas Trujillo's three-decade dictatorial regime in the Dominican Republic. Last November, we spoke with Austin Community College District about their community?s experiences reading Julia Alvarez's novel, and this week we are speaking to Sean Reinhart, director of Library and Community Services for the city of Hayward. For its third Big Read, Hayward continued the tradition of The Big Read-A-Thon, where all community member were invited to read a passage from the book at City Hall Plaza during the Saturday farmer's market. Readers ranged from students to authors, educators, and neighbors. Read on for more about Hayward Public Library?s 2011 Big Read.
NEA: One of Hayward Public Library?s events is a Big Read-A-Thon where you invited members of the community to read a passage from the book. Can you discuss your other efforts to involve your whole community in The Big Read?
SEAN REINHART: Hayward Public Library utilized the majority of The Big Read grant funding to purchase 1,000 paperback copies of In the Time of the Butterflies, which were distributed at no charge to high school students who pledged to read and discuss the book. This was done to remove economic barriers and provide more stimulus for young adults to participate in The Big Read. The move proved very popular, and helped us to bring 1,000 high-school-aged students into The Big Read community discussion.
NEA: In the Time of the Butterflies is the newest addition to The Big Read library. Why did you feel this book would be a good fit for your community?s Big Read?
REINHART: This is the third year in a row that Hayward was given the honor of participating in The Big Read initiative. In all three Big Reads we have done, we felt strongly that one of the most effective ways to connect young people with the transformative power of literature is to give them the opportunity to speak directly with the author. Though we didn?t know it at the time we selected In the Time of the Butterflies, it turned out that the book---which is about the popular overthrow of a long-entrenched dictator---is incredibly relevant to current events in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
NEA: What Big Read event were you most looking forward to?
REINHART: I personally enjoyed The Big Read-A-Thon event the most. To witness one hundred local folks from all walks of life in our community come together to take turns, each reading a few pages from the book out loud in public until the entire book has been read cover-to-cover, is a simple yet deeply transformative experience that enriches the lives of everyone involved.
NEA: What has been the biggest surprise from your experience with The Big Read?
REINHART: I think my biggest surprise this year was how much our community remembers and looks forward to The Big Read. I knew from the past two years? successes that community support for the initiative was strong during the actual event series. But I was surprised when, in the weeks before we actually announced our next Big Read event series, dozens of people were calling me to ask, ?When are you doing The Big Read again? I want to read in the Read-a-Thon again---sign me up!?
NEA: Any last words?
REINHART: The Big Read is the most successful national reading initiative ever conceived. We are deeply honored and proud to have been selected as a Big Read grantee in each of the past three years. The initiative has helped us to deliver on our shared mission to bring the transformative power of reading and literature to our entire community. The tremendous work of National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Arts Midwest to provide funding and technical support for The Big Read has made a positive difference and touched the lives of thousands of young people in Hayward. Thank you!
Hayward Public Library?s Big Read continues through May 10. For more information, visit the library?s website. To learn more about In the Time of the Butterflies, including a radio show featuring Neko Case and Junot Diaz, visit The Big Read website.