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Lower School Library Unveils New Reading Program to Connect Community

A long-planned community reading program launched this week in the Lower School Library.

OES Reads is an optional reading engagement program that allows students and their families to choose from carefully curated lists of titles to read, discuss the books as a group, and then create art or writing responses as a reflection.

“The goal of this program is for these stories to spark conversations among students and their families, encourage a love of reading and learning, help us develop empathy and compassion, and create ways for students and families to connect with others in the community through their shared experience of reading,” Lower School Librarian Lora Worden said.

Students and parents can expect a diverse array of books in terms of characters and perspectives, and book formats and reading levels. There are four different lists: Picture Books for Young Listeners; Picture Books and Early Readers; Picture Books and Chapter Books; and Mature Chapter Books. Students are welcome to read books from any list and to mix and match.

Upcoming Dreaming Justice speaker [February 2021] Renée Watson authored three books on the lists: Some Places More than Others, Ways to Make Sunshine, and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen.

“This program aligns with OES's Diversity and Value Statements,” Worden said. “By sharing stories we build awareness, both of ourselves and each other. The books on these lists explore many aspects of one's identity: race, class, gender, sexuality, family structure, ability, military status, legal status, religion, and more. I hope that each reader will find a bit of themselves in the books on this list, and gain perspective about other ways of being in the world.”

Each year, the program will have a different theme, with different lists of books, questions to prompt discussions, and ways to share responses. This year’s theme? Our Nations' Many Voices.

“There are 574 federally-recognized tribal nations in what is now known as the United States,” Worden said. “Additionally, there are the rich cultures and traditions that people brought with them from their homelands whether that was 400 years ago or four months ago, whether they came here by choice or by force. All of those stories are a part of our larger story, and as [The Rev. Head] Chaplain Phillip [Craig] has discussed in recent services, learning each other's stories is one way we create belonging.”

OES Reads will act as a gateway to reading, making available the many points of entry for students and families to find books that are "just right" for them. All books are available in the Lower School Library’s print collection, both ebooks and audiobooks on Sora or Epic, and are also available through the public library and independent bookstores.

“These stories can serve as stepping stones into courageous conversations about our community, both within OES and across the nation,” Worden said. “To be able to listen, to be able to connect with someone who may be different than you, to find our shared humanity—these are skills our nation, and our world, need right now. These are skills that people develop, at least in part, through reading, reflecting, and sharing.”