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“You realized how much they had put into this whole project.”

Image of Wendy deForest

Wendy de Forest, Youth Director at the Richmond Free Library, in front of some of the protest posters created by area students as part of Vermont Reads 2018.

Over the past three years, the Richmond Free Library has been at the center of several creative Vermont Reads projects that have strengthened bonds in the local community.

Jane Vossler, a retired English teacher, was so inspired by the Vermont Reads 2016 story of Ernest Shackleton and his Endurance expedition to the Antarctic that she wrote an original script for a readers’ theater. Residents volunteered for the parts, attended rehearsals, and gave a public performance at the library. “The audience loved it,” said Wendy de Forest, Youth Director at the library. “And the readers really enjoyed the rehearsal time, and exploring the story together, and taking on a character’s voice.”

Apply for Vermont Reads by June 1

Apply to host a Bread and Roses, Too program in your town by June 1 for priority consideration.

As a result, Jane formed a play-reading group at the library in collaboration with the Community Senior Center of Bolton, Richmond, and Huntington. The group meets regularly to read aloud together.

The library partnered with the Richmond Congregational Church on projects related to Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, the Vermont Reads selection for 2017. These included a special Sunday meditation, a screening of the film Ruby Bridges, and a discussion about the book.

Most memorable, however, was a community art project inspired by the butterflies and the silhouette on the cover of Woodson’s book. Local artist Kathryn Wysockey-Johnson painted watercolor backgrounds for the library’s shelves, and visitors were invited to create their own butterflies to add to the evolving mural over the course of a month. “It was very noticeable,” Wendy said, “It made people say, ‘What’s this all about?’”

Image of Edmunds students marching

For this year’s Vermont Reads book, Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson, Wendy approached the local Mansfield Cooperative School to brainstorm project ideas. “What got me excited was doing something very different than just reading a book and talking about it,” said Wendy.

Among other activities, the teachers turned the study of Bread and Roses, Too into a poetry unit. The unit culminated in a public performance at the library of poems that students in grades 3 through 8 had written and choreographed.

“It really was a marvelous night,” said Wendy. “The kids really got into it and did such a good job. You realized how much they had put into this whole project of understanding the themes of the book, teasing out the themes that were important to them, putting them into their own words, and then directing their fellow students.” She continued, “I think Katherine [Paterson] would have been really happy to see the creativity that her book brought to life in these kids.”

Paterson will visit the Richmond Free Library on June 5 for a free talk at 6:30 pm. Reserve your space by emailing or by calling (802) 434-3036.

Paterson will also speak at the Bradford Academy at 6:30 pm on May 31. Reservations are not required for this event.

Photo of poetry performance courtesy Shem Roose.