STONINGTON — Teenagers are already signing up for a community reading program designed to build intergenerational communication and encourage an understanding of teen culture.
Adults are encouraged to join, too.
Read Bold is a new program just launched by the Stonington Free Library in collaboration with Stonington Human Services and Stonington High School.
Participants will read “The Perks of a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky and will have the opportunity to take part in discussions about the book, to be held in March.
The book, a coming-of-age story set in high school and written in a letter format, was chosen through an email survey sent to all Stonington High School students last fall. Autographed copies of the book are available to teens for free at the library and the high school media center.
Several members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board met at the library Wednesday and shared their impressions of the book.
Audrey Fuller, 14, had just started reading the book.
“I do find it really interesting and very thought-provoking” she said. “It’s engaging.”
She said the book is written from the perspective of a high school student and the main character was a kind of witness figure, observing everything but hanging back, like a wallflower.
“It isn’t trying to be some big story with a ton of romance and crazy events happening, it's just a kid’s life in high school,” she said. “And even though there are some bigger events that happen, it’s all real life; it’s nothing that wouldn’t be plausible.”
Bryn Morgan, 16, and a sophomore member of the library’s Teen Advisory Board, read the book in seventh grade and was excited about rereading it.
“I decided to join because I heard that it was ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’” said Morgan. “I read it at an age where there were parts I didn’t understand and now I'm at a time where I can understand more aspects of it.”
Morgan said the story talks about teen culture and shows “how chaotic high school can be and how it can take a toll on different aspects of your life.”
Talking about the book intergenerationally will promote understanding between teenagers and adults, said Morgan.
“Adults will be taken back to a time when they felt these things and we’ll understand that they were there too,” she said. “This book takes place in 1991 but could have taken place in 1961 and I think it helps show teenagers are still feeling the same way and struggling with the same things; these ideas are timeless.”
Heidi Chappell, 15, a sophomore, said she looked forward to hearing multiple reactions to the story.
“I think everyone has different experiences so when they’re reading the book it will be interesting to see how people saw it because everyone is going to come from their own perspective,” she said.
Fuller agreed and said the upcoming discussions would broaden her experience and enjoyment of the book.
“It will be really interesting if we do get to do big discussions because everyone has different opinions and thoughts and ideas and it really opens your eyes,” she said. “It makes the book more enjoyable because you get all these different perspectives about the same event.”
Maris Frey, youth services director at the library, said a similar program in St. Paul, Minn., inspired her to start Read Bold.
“I contacted the librarians out there, who have been doing this for about six years, and I sort of picked their brains about what we could do and what would work for us,” she said.
Frey said she hoped adults would join the program so that conversations about the book could happen throughout the community.
“I would love to encourage adults to take part in the program because I think having the teens doing it is half the challenge,” she said. “I think if we reach a critical mass of people reading it then I’m going to run into you somewhere and I’m going to have the book in my hand and you’re going to look at me and say, ‘Oh, are you reading that too, what did you think about?’ I’d like that discussion to happen because I think that’s what brings a community together.”