One Book, One College program to engage students

By Kevin Camargo

One Book, One College is a program that English instructors Dina Szklarek and Grace Lee decided to bring to East Los Angeles College so the whole campus can engage in one same book.

On Thursday, the English department hosted a flash-mob reading, which is a large public gathering to introduce the book, of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

“We thought that during college hours, when students are out and about and walking, (that) they would notice (the event) and listen. Maybe a phrase would get them interested so they would sit down, check it out and enter the raffle,” said Szklarek.

ELAC is one of the few colleges in the district that does not have One Book,One College, said Szklarek.

She said she hopes that the program promotes literacy on campus because many students usually do not finish reading a book for class. “We want students to read and generate conversation and educate our community,” said Szklarek.

When it came to choosing the book, faculty and staff had three to choose from. When they all voted, “Half the Sky” won easily.

Nancy Ramirez, an English instructor who has read and taught the book in her class, was among those who nominated the book.

“These are sobering issues that, at times, we try not to discuss or talk (about). Sometimes we simply ignore (them) because we think, ‘this is happening in China, this is happening in Vietnam, so it doesn’t effect me’ but it does,” said Ramirez.

“The book raises that issue. As educated citizens, we need to know about these issues in order to create changes.”

Ramirez believes that these events will capture people’s attention and raise awareness.  “It gives them a quick glimpse at some of these heart-wrenching stories. One Book, One College is a window into the book and hopefully that will encourage the students and faculty members to read it,” said Ramirez.

Lee also said that this program can connect everyone at ELAC that participates in the program.

“You can just reach out to the person standing in line next to you at the cafeteria, and you can have a conversation with that person. You can talk to faculty because you’re both readers of (the) book and it’s not part of a hierarchy,” said Lee.

With One Book, One College being an innovation for ELAC, the intention is for the program to focus on students, rather than faculty and staff, being the pilots of the program.

“I would like to see students really be an active part of this program. We would like to consider having students be part of the voting process [and] the nomination process. We want them to be a critical component throughout the stages,” said Lee.

ELAC will have future events for One Book, One College, said Szklarek.

“I hope students are at least now aware [that] One Book, One College exists [and] we’re trying to develop it at ELAC,’’ said Szklarek.

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