Beginning next month, the town will start a new chapter in community building with the introduction of Monroe Reads Together (MRT).
At the Board of Education’s regular meeting Monday night, Jack Zamary, director of technology and operations for Monroe Public Schools, gave an overview of the upcoming program and its benefits.
According to Zamary, Monroe Reads Together is a program in which the entire community reads one book, then reflects on the work through various interactive events and programs. The purpose, he said, is to enage all of Monroe in the benefits and enjoyment of reading and to engage the community in a conversation about books and issues.
Those who have developed the program have been working together for more than a year to get it off the ground and include members of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library staff, local business owners, a representative from both the high school and the Monroe Youth Commission, school administrators and members of the general public.
“People are really committed to this project and we’re excited about where it’s going,” Zamary said of the group.
The benefits of MRT are many, Zamary said, especially for younger community members. Research shows that proficient readers are more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to be economically successful later in life, and that children with a larger vocabulary show higher academic achievement in general, Zamary said. Additionally, reading helps students develop background knowledge, which accounts for as much as a 33% difference in student achievement.
“The more we enocurage reading in our community, the more we’ll do for our students as learners, and really, the more we do for the economic solvency of our community,” Zamary said.
Although the MRT team considered a wide range of book titles in searching for the perfect selection, and had lively discussions in doing so, it was ultimately able to narrow it down to one choice — which will remain a secret until the program is unveiled next month, Zamary said.
It was revealed, however, that the book has a strong Veterans Day connection and that the author and her family have agreed to visit Monroe for various events related to the work.
While the official Monroe Reads Together kickoff will not take place until Oct. 1, the book will be revealed to the community in May and June so that it may be included in students’ summer reading list options, Zamary said. If students select the MRT book for their summer reading, they will then have the opportunity to take part in a number of related events, including meeting the author, he said.
The official October kickoff will include a series of events, such as book club discussions with celebrity readers and a chance for community members to write about their own personal heroes, to be published in local media.
In addition, on Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — the author will visit Monroe along with her husband, an active service member, to participate in Veterans Day school assemblies. The following day, the author will visit each of the town’s elementary schools to discuss the book’s topics and will hold an author event that evening. Then, on Nov. 13, the author will give a presentation at Masuk, as well as in the Jockey Hollow Middle School auditorium as a culmination of the program’s activities. Her husband will join her to discuss the importance of public service.
In addition, the author has agreed to create a video specifically for Monroe, which will be played as an introduction to the MRT program at town schools and the library, Zamary said.
Fortunately, Zamary said, financing Monroe Reads Together should not be a problem. The Connecticut Humanities Foundation will provide a $1,500 grant, while the Friends of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library and the town’s PTOs will add another $1,500 each. Additionally, Linda’s Story Time owner Linda Devlin will donate 10% of the book’s sales at her store to Monroe Reads Together.
The cost of getting the author to town and providing her, along with her family, a hotel and food for about four days will be approximately $3,000. The cost is extremely low, Zamary said, considering the author honorarium is free, whereas most authors are paid a minimum of $1,000 per day to simply to participate in an event.
The cost of programs and activities related to MRT has yet to be determined.
At the conclusion of Zamary’s presentation, Superintendent of Schools James Agostine praised the MRT team for the difficult task of selecting a book that would engage readers of all ages and abilities.
“This is just another great opportunity at community building in a relationship that’s been established between the library and schools,” Agostine said.