First-year students will read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls as part of next year’s Shared Read program, an initiative started by Academic Affairs and Student Affairs that aims to introduce students to Rider University’s learner-centered mission. The entire campus community is invited to participate in the program.
“Our goal is to highlight the importance of reading, an activity integral to the life of an educated person and to provide students with a common topic of discussion with their peers, faculty, staff and administrators,” says DonnaJean Fredeen, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
In The Glass Castle, Walls tells her story about surviving parental neglect in a dysfunctional but vibrant family. The book delves into the social issues of homelessness, alcoholism, racism and poverty.
The University is planning to offer many activities throughout the year that will focus on the book’s themes. To date, related activities include a visit by the author, a memoir essay contest, several book discussions (including one with members of the Alumni Foundation and one with the Provost) and other community outreach events based on the many social issues in the book.
In selecting the book, Fredeen worked with faculty and staff members Vanita Neelakanta, Chuck McCall, Chick Chickering, Christine Melhorn, Christine Eugene, Kendall Freidman and Ira Mayo. The group spent February through April reading numerous books, which Fredeen says sparked many hallway conversations amongst the committee.
“Sharing a book within a community provides an opportunity for all of us to take part in intellectual discourse on the ideas presented,” she says. “Personally, I have engaged in excellent conversations regarding many different books since I announced this program. In fact, the Shared Read Committee enjoyed our conversations so much that I suspect we will be reading a few common titles over the summer.”
In addition to The Glass Castle, the group considered other novels and nonfiction books such as Moby Duck, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Wine to Water, A School for My Village, The Fault in Our Stars, Enders Game, The Invention of Wings, and Nickel and Dimed.
The group considered each book’s message, the writing style, the layers of issues and the activities that could be organized around the read. “As I read, I asked if the book presented an unstructured problem, one in which there is no simple solution, requiring the use of many disciplinary lenses to answer,” Fredeen says.
The University will distribute books, which are being purchased through the support of the Rider Alumni Foundation, Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, to students on the first day of the Mock Classroom scheduled during New Student Orientation. Additional copies of the book for the entire campus community will be available on a first-come basis. A notice will be sent when the books arrive on campus.