So, there’s this cool program at Western Washington University, my fair employer, called Western Reads.
The idea is that every year a committee picks a book that will be given free of cost to every new student arriving Fall Quarter. The remainder of the program looks like this:
- Students are given a list of questions to consider as they read the book, a gentle compass of sorts
- Students are invited to attend a wide variety of organized activities providing opportunities to discuss the book with fellow students and faculty
- Many administrative staff read the book as well and participate in discussion groups, both amongst themselves and with students
- The author of the book comes, late in Fall Quarter, for a speaking engagement as well as participation in less formal lectures and discussion forums
Book clubs have been around for ages, but this really does seem like Reading 2.0, liberating readers from their solitude and creating a community designed for engagement with the book and with others who read it, just as social networking sites have created online communities at a time when everyone was worried that computer users were prone to isolation.
That this year’s Western Reads book, The Young & The Digital, by S. Craig Watkins, has been thrust upon me — I supervise student employees who provide tech support to computer users on campus, and have been asked to participate with a colleague and one of our student employees, by reading the book and attending some discussion groups — is rather serendipitous, because, as the father of a 12-year old son with a strong attraction to digital media, I’d very much like to know, to paraphrase the book’s subtitle, what this all means for his future.
I’ll be posting here as I make my way through the book, to share any thoughts that come to mind. Who knows, maybe some of you out there reading this have read it or would like to. Feel free to join in!