Vermont Reads 2013
Activities that promote shared reading and discussion are limited only by a coordinator’s or group’s creativity, energy, and enthusiasm. Take a look at activities that have worked in communities across the country. Let us know your activity ideas!
- Start a poetry discussion group
- Host a read-a-thon
- Listen to VPR Vermont Reads broadcasts
- Start an ongoing poetry group
- Take part in National Poetry Month and PoemCity in Montpelier
- Attend poetry events at book festivals in Burlington, Brattleboro, and Woodstock
- Host a poetry writing contest
- Do poetry-related art and craft projects
- Watch short films and clips of poets reading their work
- VHC Speakers Bureau, First Wednesdays, and Reading and Discussion Programs
Photo by J. Grimmer
Program Coordination Tips
Poetry Discussion Groups — Ideally, a discussion group should be facilitated by a person comfortable leading conversations in which everyone feels encouraged to participate. Facilitators might be teachers, local poets, librarians, town VIPs, or others who love poetry, care about talking about it with others, and are skilled and enthusiastic about leading a discussion. Facilitators should prepare questions in advance — using the VHC discussion guide as a resource. If they will be discussing poems by famous poets not included in Poetry 180, ideally they will know a bit about the author and context of the poems under
discussion. Intergenerational groups make for rich, perspective-broadening discussions. (Note: VHC does not fund discussion facilitators; facilitators should be volunteers, or towns must make their own honorarium
arrangements with facilitators.)
Read-a-Thon — Advertise a day or evening read-a-thon, where participants take turns reading poems aloud. Everyone who wishes to participate should have the opportunity. This is a unique way for people of all ages and backgrounds to share the reading experience. Consider holding the event in an unusual location. Residents of one California town held a highly successful and fun read-a-thon of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in a donut shop.
VPR Broadcast — Gather a group around the radio — or around a computer — to listen to VPR’s Vermont Reads program when it is available. Vermont Public Radio is VHC’s media partner for Vermont Reads. Use the program as a lead-in to a discussion. Air dates and times will be publicized when they are available.
Start an ongoing poetry group — Vermont Reads-related activities don’t have to conclude at the end of the year. You may find that people in your town want to “keep on going,” particularly when it comes to discussion groups in which people have a chance to hear their neighbors and themselves reflect on heartfelt issues. The Academy of American Poets has a web page that is helpful in thinking about how to structure and run such ongoing groups.
National Poetry Month — April is National Poetry Month. Plan a community celebration of poetry and poets during that month: honor local poets, stage readings, collect and publish original poetry by
community members, post poems throughout your community, or organize a poetry slam.
First Wednesday Lectures — Attend Dartmouth professor Nancy Jay Crumbine’s February 1, 2013 First Wednesdays program on Emily Dickinson, Annie Dillard and the interconnection between creativity and spirituality at the Brownell Library in Essex Junction, or Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea’s May 1, 2013 First Wednesdays program on William Wordsworth and Robert Frost at the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro. And look for additional related First Wednesdays lectures on the first Wednesday of October, November and December. First Wednesdays programs take place at 7:00 p.m.
PoemCity — If you live close enough, join Central Vermont residents in the expansive range of activities held over the month of April as part of PoemCity, Montpelier’s annual, month-long celebration of National Poetry Month. Or contact the Kellogg-Hubbard Library for information about how your community might learn from their celebration.
Burlington Book Festival — Attend the Burlington Book Festival with your group. Held on the weekend of September 20–22, 2013, it takes place in a variety of downtown Burlington venues, celebrating the written word with readings, signings, panels, workshops, demos, family activities, and special events featuring literary luminaries from around the world — and from just around the corner. All events are free and open to the public.
Brattleboro Literary Festival — Poets figure prominently in the Brattleboro Literary Festival, as they do in the Burlington Book Festival. A three-day celebration in October in downtown Brattleboro, the festival includes readings, panel discussions, and special events featuring emerging and established authors.
Bookstock — Woodstock’s literary festival, Bookstock, takes place mid-summer, and is a great opportunity for readers of all ages to enjoy the written word. It features readings, talks, and workshops by nationally recognized poets and writers, especially those associated with Vermont or New Hampshire.
Writing Project/Contest — Writing contests are a popular means for younger readers and writers in particular to approach the written word. Entries can be assembled in print or on the web, and winning selections can be read at a special event. If you choose to run a contest, we suggest offering prizes in different age or grade categories. (And be sure to let us know about the contest so we can help advertise it.)
VHC Reading & Discussion and Speakers Bureau — Host one of VHC’s three Reading & Discussion series focused on poetry:
- Robert Frost: Poetry & Prose
- Poems to Share (short poems that are meant to be read aloud)
- Robert Frost: You Come Too
Or host one of at least four Speakers Bureau talks that are germane to this year’s Vermont Reads:
- Adventures in Poetry (poems by contemporary New England Writers)
- Who Was Robert Frost and Who Are We? (discussion led by poet and educator Geoff Hewitt)
- The Music of Poetry (lecture/demonstration by musician Michael Arnowitt)
Other Speakers Bureau programs might also fit into your particular program.
Art/Craft Project — In addition to (or instead of) writing, young people and adults may wish to express their feelings about poems through artwork, music or dance. Have participants create drawings or paintings based on a poem. Arrange for exhibit space at your local library, school, or museum to show participants’ work. Organize a talent show or cabaret for performers or presenters of any kind based on either original poetry or participants’ favorite poems.
Video Series — Use video in which poetry of one kind or another plays an important role. Among others, there are countless short films and clips of poets reading their work (see for example the PBS production of Bill Moyers’ Fooling with Words) available on the web or elsewhere.
Know Your Audience — Be sure you know your audience before determining the activity or
activities you plan to undertake. You may be interested in hosting programs for adults, young adults, middle-school students, or a combination of these. Poetry 180 was chosen for its broad appeal to a wide range of people: young and old, strong and fragile readers. You may choose to appeal to a diverse group or target a specific type of reader. (The Council encourages open, general public programming whenever possible.)
Involve Your Audience — Involve your audience in planning your programs — in the choice of activities, the planning details, and the on-site coordination of them. This will help everyone, especially children and young adults, feel invested in the event.
Book Access — Ideally, participants will come to the program — of whatever type — having read some or all of the book. However, with the possible exception of book discussion programs, this should not be a stringent requirement for participation. In particular, read-a-thons and staged readings may be the first exposure that participants have to the book, and so make sure you have copies on hand to give away or sell. (Publicize where participants can get a copy of the book. Remember: Access is the key to success.) Please make every effort to accommodate beginning readers or those needing a reading partner. Places to contact for assistance include adult basic education centers, libraries, and schools.
Combining Programs — Many of these programs and activities can be combined — held simultaneously or on successive days or evenings. Consider holding a book discussion one night of the week and a panel discussion the next, or try a read-a-thon and a photography project. Or combine a book discussion and field trip with a writing project and exhibit. Let us know what works best for you!
Location, Location, Location — Program location possibilities are as endless as types of activities. Consider transportation needs when deciding on a location and arrange for busing or car pools whenever possible if the need arises. For some, getting to an out-of-the-way site presents a challenge, and so consider central locations with easy access (including access for those with disabilities). Traditional sites such as libraries, schools, senior centers, town halls, and civic buildings are excellent, but we encourage you to think non-traditionally as well in order to increase your audience. Try these locations: converted mill buildings; cafés, coffee shops, and restaurants; laundromats; retirement communities; city parks and other public-use areas; town pools, beaches and lakefronts; organizations such as the YMCA/YWCA and Boys-and-Girls Club; church function rooms; bookstores; and local businesses.
Funding — Think outside the box in this category, too. Rule #1: Collaborate. Doing so not only increases your potential audience, but two or more organizations also have more resources than one, and those resources only increase when more organizations join the mix. By resources we don’t just mean cash, but person-power and in-kind donations such as the use of a photocopier or beverages and snacks during the event. Appeal to local bookstores to discount the book for individual purchases or for a bulk order for the entire group. Invite local businesses to support the program by donating funds outright, or use of
space in their facility.
Publicity — Any community sponsoring a Vermont Reads Poetry 180 project should take advantage of the Council’s FREE publicity, including notices on our website and in our monthly media calendar.
Submit your event at least one month before the event date. Include a title and description of the activity, plus date(s), time(s), location(s), and contact information.
VHC also provides Vermont Reads poster templates in two sizes, as well as digital versions on our website, and graphical elements (Vermont Reads seal, VHC logo, book cover) that can be used to custom design a flyer. Hang posters and notices everywhere you can think of: libraries, schools, colleges, bookstores, churches, general stores and co-ops, restaurants, cafés and coffee shops, laundromats, town halls, community bulletin boards, and other gathering sites.
Contact your local papers, radio stations, cable access channels, newsletters, and websites to find out how far in advance they require calendar information, and send out a press release about your activity before the deadline. And don’t forget: word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to draw participants.
Food and Beverages — Making food available—and advertising it—almost always increases attendance. Relate food and beverage items to the books for added flair. Have participants join in the preparation of the refreshments. If you have the funds to go fancy, great, but even the standard coffee and cookies, juice and fruit, or crackers and cheese will be welcome. (Local grocery stores, co-ops, restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, and other food-service businesses are often happy to donate food items in return for recognition. Just ask!)
Involve Community VIPS — Local VIPs automatically draw an audience. Consider asking one or more of them to kick off your community activities, lead a discussion, lead a field trip, speak as part of a panel, be photographed with the book, or anything else you can think of. VIPs to consider include business owners, the mayor, city council members and other politicians, the school board chair, the historical society president, sports stars/coaches, principals, sheriffs/police officers, and others.
Engage Your Local Bookstore — Many bookstores have either formal or informal events organized around the written word. Talk to your local bookseller to see how you might work together to create readings and other events that reach broadly into the community.
After-School Programs — Many Vermont Reads activities would work well as after-school programs. Contact your local middle and high school teachers to get Vermont Reads Poetry 180 on the agenda.
Displays at Libraries, Bookstores, Schools — Ask your library, bookstore, or school to feature prominent displays of Vermont Reads Poetry 180 or other books of poetry.
Culminating Celebrations — Many communities have chosen to end a series of Vermont Reads activities by holding a festive and fun event, such as a dinner or a themed potluck put on by several collaborating organizations. These final events are also useful for showcasing student work done as part of the Vermont Reads project or for hosting a panel discussion.