Southwest Open School launches first Common Read

The Southwest Open School will embark on its first Common Read this month with two works of fiction, one for Explorations House students and one for Destinations House students. In addition, all students will be issued a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Explorations House students will read the classic novella Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. Destinations House students will read a contemporary novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus.

Funding from two separate grants has made it possible for the school to purchase the books. The “21st Century Community Learning Center” and “Exceptional and At-Risk Student Services” grants share, as two of their goals, increasing family engagement in students’ educational experiences and strengthening literacy among students’ families. To those ends, students will be encouraged to share their books with other family members.

SWOS will hold a series of events throughout the school year around all three titles, such as readings, discussion groups, and a movie night. In addition, teachers in all subject areas may incorporate the books into their lessons, in keeping with the school’s third design principle of “teamwork and individuality.

The common read practice, popular for several years at colleges like Fort Lewis College, has been a dream of director Jennifer Carter for some time.

“A shared literary experience seems like a powerful way to build and strengthen personal connections within our school community,” says the former English teacher. “We also want to encourage students, and their family members, to read not only when it’s required of them, but simply for the joy of it.”

The books will be distributed at Family Orientation on Friday, Aug. 8, from 5-7 p.m.

Maria’s Bookshop in Durango contributed to the project by extending a discount on two of the titles.