‘Books Matter’ to celebrate reading community

In a blog entry, Yorba Linda, Calif. sophomore Lucy Ruscitto interviewed one of the co-owners of the Fabled Book Shop & Cafe, Allison Frenzel who suggested that Wacoans read “The Which Way Tree.” Photo courtesy of Lucy Ruscitto

By Tyler Bui | Assistant News Editor

Students from a Reporting and Writing for Media class partnered with Act Locally Waco to create “Books Matter, a blog to celebrate National Reading Month.

“Books Matter” will post throughout the month of March, and it will feature some of Waco’s most prominent figures, including Mayor Kyle Deaver, the Waco City Council as well as other members of the Baylor community.

Each post discusses the individual’s favorite book and why it is so important and influential to them.

In addition to the blog posts, the Waco-McLennan County Library and Fabled Bookshop & Café will put the mentioned books on display for readers to easily find.

Amber Adamson, lecturer in the journalism, public relations and new media department, is one of the co-creators of the series. Her students in her Reporting and Writing for Media are writing the blog posts.

Along with Adamson, the other co-creator of the series is Ashley Thornton, who is also the founder of Act Locally Waco.

Act Locally Waco is nonprofit geared toward uniting the Waco community and creating a platform for Wacoans to find ways to get involved in their city.

“The purpose of Act Locally Waco is to make it easy for people to get involved in making Waco a terrific community,” Thornton said. “We try to provide channels of communication where people can figure out how to get involved in Waco and what role they want to play in making this a great community to live in.”

Thornton said National Reading Month is held to energize communities about reading. She said she wanted to create something that would not only celebrate reading but encourage the Waco and Baylor community to read a wide variety of books.

“I love to read, and I was curious about other people in Waco were reading. I thought it would be fun to celebrate this month and feed my curiosity about what other people in Waco are reading,” Thornton said. “It was so fun reading all the different [blog posts.] Some of them really give you insight into that person.”

When choosing the group of people to be featured in the blog, Thornton said she picked people who were not only interesting to her but represented a diverse group within the Waco community.

“I went to some different organizations like MCC, Baylor, libraries and the family health center and asked them to pick some people so that we could have a nice mix of all different kinds of people,” Thornton said.

Adamson also said they made sure to create a list of people that would represent a vast majority of life experiences that readers can learn from.

“I think reading is one of the most powerful ways that we can step into another person’s story and understand their perspective,” Adamson said. “We were very intentional on creating this list that was diverse, that included lots of different people from different backgrounds and perspectives.”

In addition to the mayor and members of the city council, students interviewed Alfred Solano, president of the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hillcrest PDS Elementary Magnet School’s outstanding teacher Ashley Toscano, Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, department chair of the journalism, public relations and new media and Alan Bond, external vice president.

San Antonio freshman Kaitlyn McMillan is one of Adamson’s students who wrote for “Books Matter.”

McMillan interviewed Council Member, John Kinnaird. She said he very nice and genuinely wanted to help her adjust to college.

“[Kinnaird] was just really helpful and thoughtful— I [enjoyed] just getting out and getting involved in the community since I’m new,” McMillan said. “I’m a freshman, so it’s difficult at times, so I think that getting out in the community and getting involved is a great opportunity.”

Adamson said “Books Matter” created a great opportunity for her students to get involved in the Waco community outside of the Baylor campus and, to also gain journalism experience in the real world.

“Anytime that we, as the Baylor community, connect with Waco, I think that’s really important. I think it was a great opportunity for my students to get out into the community,” Adamson said.

Adamson said she wants her students to go out and meet with the leaders of the community one-on-one.

“From the journalistic perspective, that’s important for my students to do, but then just from the community-building perspective for them to see community leaders in different positions, might inspire them to be community leaders themselves,” Adamson said.

Both Thornton and Adamson said the blog is not targeted toward a specific audience, but rather anyone who cares about Waco and reading.

“Reading together and talking about what you’re reading is one way to build community,” Thornton said. “To me, one of the best ways to get to know somebody is to talk to them about some book that was important to them. That’s how you get into what they really care about and get into some deep conversations.”

Adamson said she hopes that “Books Matter” and National Reading Month will inspire people in the Waco and Baylor communities to pick up a book for leisure.

“I think we consider reading sometimes as only an academic pursuit. It can be a stress reliever and leisure activity that can take you to other worlds to experience other perspectives,” Adamson said.

Whenever she is feeling stressed, Adamson picks up a book and recommends it to others.

“Look for stories and perspectives that are different than you because that’s how we grow,” Adamson said. “Looking at this list and finding someone who’s different than you and reading something that they recommend could be the first step in understanding someone who’s different than you.”