Featured Venue: A Conversation with West Kentucky Reads!

34Gail Robinson Butler, the coordinator for the One Book, One Campus, One Community program at West Kentucky Community and Technical College was gracious enough to offer these thoughts on her experience as an All Campus Reads organizer. Thanks Gail!

BIC: Any idea about how many campus literary events you’ve done over the years?

GRB: Over the years, WKCTC has conducted many campus literary events spanning various departments and divisions, including the library and the English Department. Those events are numerous and exciting. Many Kentucky and regional authors, such as Silas House and Bobbie Ann Mason, were brought to campus.  Seven years ago, we decided to add to our literary offerings and produce a One Book, One Campus, One Community Read every other year.  WKCTC has involved numerous community partners in both the planning and production of the event, including the Paducah-McCracken County Library, Paducah Public Schools, McCracken County Public Schools, McNet Library Network and more. On alternate years we produce a Campus Read, targeting English 101 students. New York Times best-selling authors David Baldacci, Jeannette Walls, Homer Hickam and Garth Stein have visited Paducah as a result of the reads.

BIC: What do you like about the Campus/Freshman Class Reads structure as a literary event format? Any thoughts on how they could be more effective?

GRB: The Campus Read is a wonderful way to have all English 101 students reading and discussing the same book months before the author’s visit.  Students have the opportunity to hear about the author’s process of bringing their story to life and to ask questions.  The students are encouraged to attend the final events during the author’s residency and it brings the literary process into focus. We like to involve our community in all the reads so we almost always offer a public evening event with a reception, meet and greet, and book discussion by the author.

BIC: What made you choose Jamie Ford’s book for the 2014 event?  What do you think makes an ideal Campus Reads selection?

GRB:The selection of the book and author must be led by the English faculty.  They all must agree that a book is the right one for the students.  That is the first step in a successful read.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet addresses subject taught in many academic areas.  That also had appeal.

BIC: Would you share some notable experiences you’ve had at Community/Campus Reads events that you’ve participated in?

GRB:David Baldacci wrote a portion of one of his recent books in our green room in the Clemens Fine Arts Center.  That was pretty cool.  One year, we kicked off the read of Baldacci’s Wish You Well by producing a period mountain festival during Paducah’s Barbeque on the River.  We had canning and weaving demonstrations, mountain music, story dancing, clogging, and activities for children.  We talked to over 900 people in one day about literacy statistics and the opportunities the read offered.  Last year, I overheard a student tell Jeannette Walls that her book, Half Broke Horses, was the first book he had read from cover to cover.  Those are the individual stories I love to hear.

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