Read Across Texas: Recovery

Cross-posted from The Director’s Report, blog of TSLAC Director and State Librarian Mark Smith.

Read Across Texas title banner showing cartoon-style orange van driving down desert road, with books strapped to the top

This week, we at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission are excited to be launching our third Read Across Texas statewide reading program presented by our Texas Center for the Book. This year’s theme of Recovery provides an opportunity to use one or more of our four suggested books to spark challenging, probing, and renewing conversations about profound experiences, both shared and individual. We envision these conversations as a way for libraries to be at the center of important community dialogue about common concerns and values.

If “Recovery” sounds like a broad theme, that is intentional. We hope that communities will approach the theme as inclusive of many different aspects, from personal recovery from tragic or challenging individual circumstances, to recovery on a broad societal level. Some communities might explore recovery from a natural disaster, while others might consider recovery from traumatic events at the national or state levels. After a year like no other in our memory, engaging in a discussion of recovery seemed appropriate. We hope these conversations may provide a context to help individuals, families, and communities to find paths back to normalcy, stability, and relative tranquility.

The conversations might be difficult, maybe at times uncomfortable, but that is part of the process and should be embraced rather than feared. The books offer the starting point for discovery. I have read all four works and was moved by the power of each one:

  • Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here by Central Texas author Nancy Wayson Dinan is a beautifully complex and nuanced novel about an extended Texas family caught up in the devastating Memorial Day floods of 2015.
  • All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing is a children’s picture book by Chris Barton with illustrations by Nicole Xu that explores how to talk to children compassionately about difficult and disturbing events of our time.
  • We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time is the spirited, joyous, and hopeful story of Chef José Andrés and a movement that triumphed over bureaucracy to provide meals and emotional nourishment to thousands of battered residents of that island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
  • In his thoughtful book of essays, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, veteran news anchor and native Texan Dan Rather explores the democratic traditions that lie at the core of our American experience, a reminder of the enduring values of our nation and a path to recovering those values.

I hope you will consider participating in Read Across Texas: Recovery and use these inspiring books to start a process of civic dialogue in your community. Our Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley will be providing resources to help frame your local discussions and make this statewide read a success.

On March 25, I will be presenting the next #TXBookChat with Rebekah to discuss how to participate in Read Across Texas. Please join us for the inside scoop on how you can use this statewide read to put your library at the center of meaningful community discussions on the topic of Recovery. Click here to register for this great program: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJApcOGurDIqGNUTKfqkClHWbPMsJMwdVF8a 

Thank you for your work building strong Texas communities. I look forward to hearing your success stories as you participate in this unique program.

Mark Smith, State Librarian

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