Megan Olson

Baraboo Public Library page Megan Olson labels books for Baraboo area middle school students to read as part of the Baraboo Reads initiative. Baraboo Reads is a community reading opportunity focusing on themes of unity, equity and inclusivity for people of all ages in the Baraboo area.

One more piece of the community action plan is taking shape next month in the form of book discussions for both students and adults.

Developed after the Baraboo Talks community event in November, the action plan includes various opportunities for improving education on topics around diversity, such as a book club and public speakers. It originally was created in response to a widely circulated photo of local students making gestures associated with white supremacy.

Baraboo Public Library Director Jessica Bergin said she put together a committee to organize the Baraboo Reads initiative, including some library staff, Baraboo school librarians and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County librarian.

“Our mission is to bring people together through reading to learn about and discuss themes of unity, equity and inclusivity,” Bergin said.

Different activities are planned for three age groups.

High schoolers to adults

Adults, university students and high schoolers can read “The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate” by Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis, who visited Baraboo to speak at the Baraboo Acts community event in December and at the high school.

Free copies of the book are available at the public library and, for students, at Baraboo High School and UW-Baraboo’s T.N. Savides Library. Bergin said the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, donated 100 copies of the book, most of which will be given away after Baraboo Reads for people to pass along to others.

At least half the books already have been picked up by participants, Bergin said. The library ordered another 50 and will get more as needed.

“It seems like people are interested,” Bergin said.

The library will host a community adult book discussion on “Gift of Our Wounds” at 6:30 p.m. April 9. Two more discussions will be held from 12:30-2 p.m. on April 18 and 25 at the UW-Baraboo library. Bergin said participants can go to any one — or more — of the discussions as they are all standalone events.

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Depending on interest in the discussions, Bergin said the library may start an annual community read event.

Middle schoolers

Students at Jack Young Middle School also will have the opportunity to choose from three books — or read them all if they want, said Library Media Specialist Kelly Steiner.

Starting Friday, they can pick up “Far from the Tree” by Robin Benway, “Piecing Me Together” by Renée Watson or “How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story” by Tim Tingle.

“I like the mission of Baraboo Reads,” Steiner said. “I think the books that we have chosen really play well into that and will lend themselves to discussion around those themes. I hope that students will, through broadening their horizon and reading about others, they will gain empathy and … continue on their road to being good people.”

Students will be able to participate in book club discussions during school, but homeschooled children also can take part in a discussion at the public library at 1 p.m. April 22.

Elementary-aged children

While they won’t be expected to contribute to book discussions, young children still can learn about diversity and acceptance through a special Baraboo Reads game developed by Baraboo library youth services staff, according to a library news release.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students will choose one local organization to win a $200 donation by completing lines of bingo. Each completed line will earn them one vote toward the Backpack Project, the Baraboo Food Pantry or the Boys & Girls Club of West Central Wisconsin.

One line wins them an invitation to the Baraboo Reads party from 10 a.m. to noon May 4, where the library will present the check to the winning organization.

Bergin said the donation and party is funded by sponsors: the Village Booksmith, Friends of the Campus, First United Methodist Church, Community First Bank, Friends of the Baraboo Public Library, Festival Foods and Summit Credit Union.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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