GCC helps tell a ‘Tale’

By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor
November 27, 2004

BATAVIA — “A Tale for Three Counties” is expanding its community.
The reading project organized by public libraries in Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties and designed to encourage residents to pick up the same book and discuss it will include several public events at Genesee Community College next spring.

“The participation from younger readers is a really good thing. It opens up a whole new audience to us,” said Leslie DeLooze, the librarian at Richmond Memorial Library who has spearheaded the “Tale” project from its inception two years ago.

GCC is planning four book discussions in Batavia and a fifth at its campus center in Lakeville, Livingston County, for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mystery In the Bleak Midwinter. Spencer-Fleming is also planning a visit to GCC in addition to her three visits in Batavia, Medina and Perry next March 10 to 12.

“There’s an excitement about building community and bringing the community in to see how the college functions. It’s also encouraging students to go out and interact in the community,” said Tracy L. Paradis, a reference librarian in GCC’s Alfred C. O’Connell Library.

Paradis and reading teacher Susan Chiddy helped secure a $2,700 President’s Innovation Award from the Genesee Community College Foundation. The grant program provides money for activities and projects that promote community involvement among students or help establish programs or initiatives within the community.

The grant includes money to purchase about 300 copies of Spencer-Fleming’s book. These books will be provided free to GCC students who show a valid ID and agree to participate in one of the discussion groups scheduled in late February and early March. GCC faculty and staff will also be able to purchase a book for $2. Money is also allocated for promotion, the author’s visit and presentation expenses.

The project starts with the spring semester in January.

“I think it’s a great way to motivate students for reading,” said Chiddy, who has already read In the Bleak Midwinter once and expects to read it at least one more time before January.

In the Bleak Midwinter is Spencer-Fleming’s debut novel and the first of an ongoing series. It explores life in Millers Kill, a fictional small town in upstate New York.

The novel introduces readers to Clare Fergusson, the new priest at the Episcopal church and an ex-Army helicopter pilot, who finds a newborn baby abandoned on the church stairs and tries to uncover what happened. But to do so she must sort through the secrets of a small town and the delicate relationship she has with the police chief.

Chiddy will feature the book in her classes in the spring. She also hopes to interest other faculty members to use the book in class — such as English and history, even criminal justice classes that might be interested in examining the book’s crime-solving procedures.

“It seems to have a universal appeal to different ages and males or females,” Chiddy said. “It’s hard to find a book that most students will see as a benefit, or enjoy. I think we’ve found one.”

Spencer-Fleming is scheduled for a full day of on-campus activities on March 10, 2005. She will lead an “art of writing” workshop for students in the morning, have lunch with a select group of students, faculty and staff; and then give a formal presentation at 1 p.m. The presentation will be open to the public.

“We’re very pleased to have” GCC involved, said DeLooze. “It shows that there’s a wider community that wants to participate.”

Chiddy read previous “Tale” selections from Leif Enger and Howard Frank Mosher and attended one of the author’s programs this spring.

“You pick up on the excitement of those in attendance and you meet other people who have read the author’s book,” she said.

Chiddy said reading is part of a lifelong learning process, but that as students reach college-age the amount of pleasure reading tends to decline. She hopes In the Bleak Midwinter and the other books in Spencer-Fleming’s series motivates them to read more frequently.

“It’s a great way to relax and extend your knowledge,” she said.

GCC Web site: www.genesee.edu

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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