By Todd Fielding, Daily News Correspondent
In the Bleak Midwinter has become required bedtime reading for first-year Genesee Community College student Andrea Seagrave and her 6-year-old son Jacob.
Seagrave, 21, reads portions of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s book — this year’s selection for the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project — to her son just before Jacob falls asleep at their Alden home. She said Jacob prefers Spencer-Fleming’s mystery to children’s books featuring such cartoon characters as Bob the Builder.
“He likes it,” said Seagrave, a general studies major. “He likes it better than his books.”
Seagrave was assigned the book as part of her Reading 101 “Gaining Power in College Reading” course at the college, one of five GCC reading and English classes that has included the novel as part of the college curriculum this spring semester.
“I’m on Chapter 14. I love it. I can’t put it down,” said Seagrave, who normally reads V.C. Andrews and Danielle Steel.
GCC instructors said students haven taken a strong liking to the novel because it is newer than work from classical mystery writers such as Edgar Allen Poe.
“I’ve never taught detective or mystery novels,” said Kris Dassinger, assistant professor of English and journalism. “We usually go over Poe.”
Several instructors incorporated the book into classes because students will get a chance to meet with the author.
“That was my motivation,” Chiddy said.
A $2,700 grant from the Genesee Community College Foundation’s President’s Innovation Award was used for GCC’s participation in “Tale.”
The grant included money to buy 250 books for students in the five classes. The grant also allowed another 100 GCC faculty and staff members to purchase the book for reduced price.
“They are reading in-between class,” said Susan Chiddy, a college reading instructor. “It’s a quick read.”
Seagrave and seven other students in Chiddy’s 13-student class braved steady snowfalls Monday night to take part in a class discussion.
Seagrave at the start of class described real-life winter weather similar to the Adirondack setting described throughout the book.
“I could see the storm behind me,” Seagrave said of her drive to class. “It was right behind me. There’s a lot of people not here.”
Students who made it to class shared their thoughts on the book during class time and afterwards at a book discussion open to the public.
Monday’s discussion even included several suggestions that Hilary Swank, who just won an Academy Award, should take on the role of Clare Fergusson — the Episcopal priest and amateur sleuth at the heart of Spencer-Fleming’s novels.
Other readers said they related to the small-town setting of the novel because it had traits similar to local communities such as Elba and Oakfield.
“This is much easier to read,” said Nat Harding, 30, an East Pembroke nursing student originally from Thailand. “I love to read out of newspapers and magazines.”
She shared her first memories of snow in America six years ago during the discussion.
Harding said there was usually no frost in Thailand — just dew from time to time.
She said the same could not be said for the weather awaiting students when they might have to brush off their cars after class. Harding said it is fun to still think about her first experience with snow.
“I would just stand there with the snow coming down,” Harding said.
The public discussion was one of four scheduled at GCC this week as part of the “Tale” project. GCC became part of the project this year, joining 20 public libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties that started “Tale” three years ago.
The project encourages people to read the same book, discuss it, and then meet the author when she visits March 10 to 12.
March 2: 11:30 a.m., Alfred C. O’Connell Library, Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd., Batavia.
March 3: 1 p.m., Alfred C. O’Connell Library, Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd, Batavia.
March 4: 10:30 a.m., Alfred C. O’Connell Library, Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd., Batavia.
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation