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Vermont Reads book opens “all kinds of possibilities.”

Judi Byron (right), Adult Program Coordinator at the Waterbury Public Library, with Speakers Bureau presenter Mary Fillmore (center) and Friends of the Waterbury Library President Linda Siegel.

“When I first looked at March: Book One, I saw all kinds of possibilities,” says Judi Byron, Adult Program Coordinator at the Waterbury Public Library.

The library has taken part in the Vermont Reads statewide one-book reading program for nine of the past ten years. The library’s Vermont Reads events this year have included a field trip to the Flynn Center for the Vermont Youth Orchestra Winter Concert, a cartooning workshop, a book discussion, and two Speakers Bureau talks from the Vermont Humanities catalogue.

One of the Speakers Bureau presentations was so impactful that a spinoff group plans to meet regularly at the library to talk about issues around race.

Apply for Vermont Reads by June 1

Apply to host a March: Book One program in your town by June 1 for priority consideration.

March: Book One is the first of a trilogy written by civil rights icon John Lewis, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and award-winning graphic artist Nate Powell. It’s the first graphic novel to be chosen for Vermont Reads in the program’s 17-year history.

Judi admits that she was never much of a reader of graphic novels. But as she read March: Book One, she warmed to the format. “It is kind of a cross between reading and watching a movie in a way. You’re being drawn into the scene,” she says.

Judi asked Seven Days cartoonist and author Rachel Lindsay to lead a cartooning workshop for teens and pre-teens at the library in early March. She was pleased by the turnout and says that “there was a lot a buzz for Rachel to come back.”

Image of Edmunds students marching

Seven Days cartoonist and author Rachel Lindsay led a cartooning workshop for teens and pre-teens at the library as part of Vermont Reads.

A March: Book One book discussion for adults quickly moved beyond conversations about the 1960s civil rights era depicted in the graphic novel. “The discussion was less about the book and more about how white Vermont is, and how we can diversify,” Judi says. “I thought it was fascinating.”

Professor William Edelglass visited the library in March to give his Speakers Bureau presentation, “A History of the Concept of Race.” A robust discussion about race and racism followed the presentation. “William said it was the sincerest post-talk discussion he’d ever witnessed,” Judi comments.

Life LeGeros, a Professional Development Coordinator who works at the University of Vermont, had also attended the talk. He agreed to serve as the facilitator of a group that will meet on the third Tuesday of the coming months to talk about issues around race, beginning with Ijeomo Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race.

“I’m excited about where this is going to go,” Judi says. “Why are we afraid of people who are different from us? How we can open up our vision and do better?”

Professor William Edelglass talking about “A History of the Concept of Race.”

Judi also likes how the Vermont Reads program helps the library reach out into the local community. For Bread and Roses, Too in 2018 the library hosted an Italian meal put on by the local senior citizens center, and led a field trip to the Rock of Ages quarry in Barre. Library staffers have also worked with the area middle school to coordinate Vermont Reads programming, and local bookstores have agreed to carry and promote the Vermont Reads book each year.

“We have this beautiful new building that has become a hub. It’s busy and it’s wonderful and we love that,” Judi says. “But I think it’s so important to get out and make those connections with church groups, the senior center, with businesses. We’re not a building. We’re about people.”