Region 16 starting One Region, One Book

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BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School is introducing a new reading initiative called “One Region, One Book.”

The program is a reading exercise designed to get students, as well as town residents, involved in reading and discussing the same book.

Through this initiative, school officials hope to foster a love of reading outside of the classroom, to encourage discourse within the community, and to share thoughts and ideas across generations of Region 16 alumni.

School officials have selected a “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien for this initiative. The book is an organized collection of related stories based on the author’s experiences during and following the Vietnam War. The book was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1990.

The school’s English department chose a book based on the events of the Vietnam War because its faculty felt it will be a well-received message in a region that has shown dedication to service.

“We chose this book because this is a community that is very involved in service,” said Joelle Kilcourse, an English teacher and the program’s co-facilitator. “We have a lot of alumni who are servicemen and women. We felt it would be a great way to communicate the sacrifices that go into military service.”

Due to the realistic and sometimes disturbing depictions of war violence, officials have not suggested the book for elementary age students. Reading guides will be distributed to help parents and guardians talk with their students as they read together.

The event will be kicked off on the last school day before Veteran’s Day, Nov. 10, and will feature a display in WRHS’s  media center, an online book trailer and a “One Region, One Book” live blog on wrhsonline.net.

On Dec.16, residents will be able to join in for a book club discussion at WRHS, where residents and students can discuss the reading and their reactions to it.

Later on in the program, films depicting the Vietnam War will be shown and local veterans from the conflict will discuss their experiences.

A writing contest will be incorporated into the program, which will seek 750 to 1,000-word essays based on specific events in the novel. There will be two submission categories: 18 and under and 19 and older.

Organizers are hoping the program gets the entire community involved.

“As English teachers, as hard as we work, there’s only so much we can do in the classroom,” said Paul Geary, an English teacher and program co-facilitator. “We are firm believers that life-long learners and life-long readers are nurtured outside of schools as much as they are inside of school.”

Similar programs are being conducted in school systems across the state, including in Stratford, Danbury, Fairfield and Trumbull. Region 16 Superintendant Jim Agostine is happy to see the initiative make its way into Prospect and Beacon Falls.

“I think it’s an absolutely superb idea,” Agostine said. “It’s something that’s been a lot of fun and has been planned all summer long. I’m glad to see it’s close to coming to fruition.”