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The program aims to turn the community essentially into a large book club.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
People taking part in reading “Wish You Well,” this year’s book selection for the Roanoke Valley Reads community reading project, got a chance to hear from the writer himself Thursday night and learn about local efforts of his literacy foundation.
Best-selling author David Baldacci spoke to hundreds of literary enthusiasts at Jefferson Center in Roanoke to kick off this year’s program, which turns the community into one large book club by encouraging residents to pick up a common book and come together for discussions.
On Thursday, organizers announced they will be conducting a book drive for new and used children’s books for the Feeding Body & Mind program, which is a joint effort by Feeding America and Baldacci’s Wish You Well Foundation to address the connection between literacy, poverty and hunger.
The Wish You Well Foundation was created by Baldacci and his wife to promote and foster literary programs.
“Even though we are an information technology society, we are woefully uninformed about lots of important issues,” Baldacci said. “Lots of this is because we have a huge percentage of the population whose reading skills are very low.”
Baldacci said he became a writer after being a heavy reader at a very young age, and it troubles him that so many people are not exposed to books, and as a result are often barely literate. After seeing the connection between illiteracy and poverty, his foundation connected with Feeding America to collect and distribute books at food banks. The partnership has collected more than 1 million books so far.
“The idea being, while food can keep you alive, that alone will not keep you out of the cycle of poverty,” he said.
In Roanoke, the Taubman Museum of Art will be the collection site beginning Friday through the final Roanoke Valley Reads event on Nov. 16. Books donated will be distributed locally through the Southwest Virginia Food Banks, according to organizer Meg Carter.
Baldacci, a celebrated writer best known for his thrillers like “Absolute Power,” said the universal themes of fitting in, growth and resiliency in “Wish You Well” are some of the messages he hopes people get out of the book.
“The book is set in 1940,” he said. “I think the themes are as valid today as they were in 1940, if not more so.”
The novel, written in 2000, takes place in Southwest Virginia and uses the mountainous setting as its own character, he said. The coming-of-age story follows two children from New York City who are sent to live on a farm after their parents die in a car accident.
A film version of “Wish You Well” was partly shot in Giles County last year. The movie’s producer is Sara Elizabeth Timmins, who lives at Smith Mountain Lake, where Baldacci also has a home.
Event organizers have also picked two books for young readers for this year’s reading project. “Jack Outwits The Giants,” by Paul Brett Johnson, is a picture book for early readers. “Belle Prater’s Boy,” by Ruth White, is a chapter book that runs for more than 200 pages. This year’s Roanoke Valley Reads events include activities and entertainment for children.
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