September has officially been declared Literacy Month in Fort St. John, bringing attention to and celebrating literacy in all of its forms.
Literacy goes far beyond the “basic” tools of reading, writing and arithmetic. In our increasingly media-soaked world, modern literacy encompasses the skills needed to navigate the often overwhelming array of opinions, viewpoints, facts, counter-facts, and artistic expressions that emerge from a publishing world where geography, class, culture, and even language are no longer the barriers that they used to be.
With this much variety at our fingertips, it can sometimes be tempting to retreat into the familiar and settle into content that reinforces our own viewpoints or makes us feel safe and comfortable.
As readers, it’s hard to argue against reading books that make us feel comfortable; get the hot tea and fluffy blanket, and curl up with whatever book is going to bring on the warm and cozies! Sometimes, however, it’s worth the effort to peek out from under the warm blanket and pick up a book that puts us in a different mindset. That’s why FSJPL has been spending 2018 challenging our patrons (and ourselves) to Read Harder.
Published annually by Book Riot, The Read Harder Challenge is an annual list of 24 tasks that challenge participants to shake up their reading habits and broaden their perspectives. Some tasks simply challenge the reader to try out new genres or styles, such as a book of true crime, or a celebrity memoir. Some tasks are silly and fun, like a book with a cover you hate.
Where the Challenge can be the most rewarding, however, is through those tasks that ask readers to use a book to step into the minds of authors and characters whose perspectives and experiences differ from our own. Tasks such as a mystery by a person of colour or LBGTQ+, or a sci-fi novel with a female protagonist or female author might put a new favourite author into a reader’s hands — one they may not have found otherwise. Reading fiction written from other perspectives can also help us to greater understand others in our world—and that’s got to be a good thing!
FSJPL’s Read Harder Group meets on the last Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Beard’s Brewing. Our members are eager to chat about whatever new and exciting viewpoints they have discovered every month, and to share recommendations for how to fulfill challenges. We still discuss the odd “warm and cozy” book every now and then, so don’t be shy about showing up to gush about the latest best-seller! New members are welcome to drop-in any time; come finish up 2018 with us, and get ready to dive into a whole new set of challenges in 2019!
Want to try out a Read Harder Challenge or two this Fall? These picks will let you tick off two boxes with one book!
1. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi
A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author and the first book in a new-to-you YA series:
Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi introduces us to Zelie, a member of the oppressed Maji people. Her mother’s generation worked wonders in a land rich with magic, and Zelie looked forward to her own future—until a brutal king killed her people and ripped magic away from the world. Now Zelie finds an unlikely partner in the king’s daughter Princess Amari, and the two are in a race to reawaken magic in her people and in the land itself.
2. MAUS: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
A comic written and illustrated by the same person and a comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image:
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, the author recounts the story of his parents’ journey through the Holocaust. Though Spiegelman’s rendering of the characters as mice, cats, dogs and pigs might sound comical, this story is anything but. If you ever wanted to explore graphic storytelling but keep thinking that it’s just for kids, this one might be worth a try.
Morgan Churchill is the children’s services and program coordinator at the Fort St. John Public Library.