By ALINA SURIEL
The Mamaroneck and Larchmont public libraries are launching their first ever community-wide reading project with the start of “One Book, One Mamaroneck.”
The initiative is meant to encourage residents throughout the communities to read the same novel by hosting events focusing on the book’s themes.
The chosen book is “I Am Malala,” an autobiographical account by internationally renowned teenage activist Malala Yousafzai. Yousafzai, a champion for female education in Pakistan, was known to criticize the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group in control of the Swat Valley where Yousafzai lived. She came to prominence after she was revealed as the author of a BBC blog providing commentary on the difficulties of life in a Taliban-controlled region in which women are largely banned from attending school or leaving their houses for even household chores.
Yousafzai was shot in the head at point-blank range at age 15 while riding the bus home from school. She received worldwide support as she recovered.
Following her ordeal, Yousafzai became the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.
Susan Riley, director of the Mamaroneck Public Library, believes that there is much to be learned from Malala’s book, and admitted that she herself was very moved by the story.
“After I read the book, I was thinking of the core values and how closely it relates to the values in Mamaroneck,” Riley said. “I discussed it with the director of the Larchmont library, and we thought it would be a great book for the community to read.”
The Mamaroneck and Larchmont public libraries are currently collecting a catalog of events related to the book hosted by organizations around Mamaroneck. These events vary widely, from book discussions sponsored by Girl Scout leaders and the senior assisted living non-profit At Home on the Sound, to an essay contest by the League of Women Voters and a discussion panel hosted at the Mamaroneck library.
Organizers of events centered on “One Book, One Mamaroneck” are especially excited about the potential of Malala’s story to invigorate women and other young people to actively pursue an education.
“Most importantly, to drum up enthusiasm to just read a book that may or may not cause you to take action, that’s pretty neat,” Sunny Goldberg, host of a book club planning a discussion on Malala’s memoir, said. “This [book] really, given to the right people, the right kids, the right women, and talking about this could really change things.”
Professor Joan Katen, moderator of a discussion panel held at the Mamaroneck public library, said Malala’s story has touched so many people, “So many people knew about Malala, understood about Malala, and then she was shot. People were touched by the fact that it was a child, that they actually went to shoot a girl to stop her from getting an education. And I think that’s an entry into the hearts of people,” she said.
Although this year marks the first attempt the libraries have made at an organized community read, Mamaroneck is not the only local municipality encouraging literacy with this initiative.
The New Rochelle Public Library has held community reads since 2007 to a positive response in the community, with the last one drawing over 7,000 participants across the city. The New Rochelle library is getting ready for its 6th community read at the end of the coming school year in May with Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
“We really wanted to find a time in which we could engage all of our patrons, in particular our young readers,” Tom Geoffino, New Rochelle Public Library director, said. “We’ve had quite a bit of success with some of our previous community reads, so we think this one will be successful too.”