College-Wide Reading Program
The College-Wide Reading Program is an initiative intended to provide a common reading that encourages thought, discussion, and collaboration at Delaware County Community College. All members of the College community are invited to nominate books for the program and to participate in related activities throughout the academic year.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
When he was young, Bryan Stevenson remembers his grandmother, the daughter of freed slaves, declaring, “You can’t understand the most important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close.” Just Mercy describes his thirty years of legal work to exonerate death row prisoners, while getting close to their world and a justice system that belies its brokenness.
The case of Walter McMillian, an African American small business owner nicknamed “Johnny D,” provides the spine of this story-driven book. He was hosting a fish fry outside of town when 18 year-old Ronda Morrison was shot to death during a robbery at her job. Against the backdrop of Harper Lee’s Monroeville, Alabama (the community that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird), Walter was arrested and kept on death row before his two-day trial. He was convicted by an all-white jury; the trial judge condemned Walter to death in the electric chair. Stevenson weaves his work on Walter’s case throughout his intensely human book.
This memoir is a grounded, alternately funny and poignant, look at a criminal justice system that often fails the poorest and most vulnerable among us. Stevenson carefully avoids despondency by drawing strength from the character of small towns, his family and friends, including Ms. Rosa Parks. As he writes, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. A native of Milton (Delaware), graduate of Eastern University (Wayne, Pennsylvania) and Harvard Law School, he now teaches at New York University.
The goals of the program include:
- Promoting a habit of reading
- Encouraging the exploration of diverse experiences and perspectives
- Providing a common discussion point for all members of the College community
- Readable by our entire population, including developmental and ESL students
- Available in paperback
- Cross-disciplinary appeal
- Ability to be incorporated into curricular and extracurricular activities
- Presents diverse or unique perspective
Students, faculty, staff, and all other college community members are invited to nominate books for future College-Wide Reading Programs. Once the particular year’s theme is announced, we invite you to nominate any and all titles you feel would lend themselves to positive college-wide reading, discussion and programming.
The College wide reading program began as the brainchild of the Reading department in the spring semester of 2003. James McBride spoke on campus at the request of faculty who were teaching his memoir The Color of Water. After the success of the author’s visit, Professor Lisa Barnes worked with fellow Reading Professors Dianne Shames, Sandy Connelly and Valerie Schantz to expand the reach of the program.
The first college-wide book selection was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (chosen by a committee of librarians, the Reading department, and English faculty volunteers). This book ran from spring 2004 to fall 2004. Discussion groups were led by members of faculty and staff from various departments and events began around the book, including serving the food mentioned in the book at a small reception. Swarup Raman gave a seminar on issues of immigration raised in Lahiri’s book.
For the next year’s pick, the program moved to following the academic year (to facilitate faculty adoption). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was chosen for the fall semester of 2005 through spring 2006. This year saw the first larger scale "tie-in" events co-sponsored by the Delaware County Intermediate Unit. Math Professors Dotty Russo and Jill Spellina delivered a seminar on the importance of numbers in the book. Our Director of the Office of Disability Services, Ann Binder, spoke about students with learning differences and the program hosted an essay competition.
Things Fall Apart was selected in 2006-2007; at this point, librarians began to prepare Library Guides for the program (available via the links above). Flags of Our Fathers began in partnership with the Delaware County Library System (DCLS) in 2007-2008.
With Courage and Cloth and Having Our Say were chosen for 2008-2009. There was an additional author visit by Chris Bohjalian (who wrote Skeletons at the Feast) as a tie-in appearance sponsored by a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the partnership with DCLS.
The Glass Castle was chosen as the 2010-2011 choice. Over the years, the program has evolved and its name has changed from the One-Book One-College program to its current name, the College-Wide Reading Program. Titles were not selected in 2009-10 or 2014-15.
The College-wide Reading program is now a housed under the Institutional Diversity committee. The current chair is Professor Liz Gray. Past chairs include Tina Shaffer of The Virginia M. Carter Center for Excellence in Teaching and Librarian Ellie Goldberg.
Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa
by Rigoberto González
by Edward Humes
Water by the Spoonful
by Quiara Alegria Hudes
Girl in Translation
by Jean Kwok
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
With Courage and Cloth
by Ann Bausum and
Having Our Say
by Sarah L. Delany, A. Elizabeth Delany and Amy Hill Hearth
Flags of Our Fathers
by James Bradley
(with Ron Powers)
Selected in partnership with the Delaware County public library’s Fall For A Book - One Book, One Community initiative.
Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe