Amarillo College launched the Common Reader program in 2008. For those of you who still are unsure what it is or why you should care despite the fact that this program has existed for seven years, we are here to tell you the what and why. The Common Reader is a book given with no cost to newly enrolling students. The book is to be read by all students and employees and then used to ignite a discussion about it and in return, provide all involved with a sense of community. Faculty and staff get together, read various books and then deliberate in order to choose the book they believe will impact AC’s community in the most powerful and influential manner. The Common Readers have been: 2008-2009, All Over but the Shoutin’, by Rick Bragg; 2009-2010, Miracle in the Andes, by Nando Parado; 2010-2011, Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley; 2011-2012, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer; 2012-2013, The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan; 2013-2014, Wine to Water, by Doc Hendley; 2014-2015, Blue Hole Back Home, by Joy Jordan-Lake; and 2015-2016, Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys. AC’s first Common Reader, All Over but the Shoutin’, was chosen because it discusses themes many can relate to such as poverty, class differences and alcohol and drug abuse. Courtney Milleson, student success coordinator and in charge of all things Common Reader, said on the AC website, “We hope students see the value in reading about someone else’s struggles and triumphs.” It is a fact that societally, we are not interested unless we are somehow involved, and the Common Reader seeks to relate to all kinds of individuals from various backgrounds. If you still do not see why you should care, how many of you can say you would not care to meet a famous author?None of you would not care; yeah, that’s what we thought.
AC brings the author of the chosen book to campus for exclusive events such as a public reading, a question-and-answer session, a lecture, an interview and a chance to talk to a famous author and have your book signed. None of you can honestly say that is not amazing or cool. You would be lying. This year’s Common Reader holds great historical importance because it retells stories that closely relate to real survivors’ stories during Joseph Stalin’s reign over the Soviet Union. This particular novel opened many individuals’ eyes to Stalin’s cruelty and brutal reign, killing more than 20 million people. This year’s Common Reader event undeniably was a huge success. Ordway Auditorium was packed to the brim as individuals hung on Sepetys’ every word, many inspired by her story and thinking of becoming writers themselves. We are sure we have convinced you why you should care, and now we regrettably inform you that AC is considering cutting all funds for the Common Reader. If an outside donor does not step up or AC’s community does not work to raise the funds, a huge learning and life-changing opportunity could be lost. The Common Reader reaches non-readers and inspires them to become avid readers. They become part of this new community, gain knowledge and have the experience of a lifetime. There is no denying that this is a special program with great opportunity. We urge our fellow students and employees to do what it takes. Fight for the Common Reader program. Fight for this opportunity. Fight for knowledge. It would be an utter shame to lose something that unites so many. The Common Reader provides AC students and employees with common ground on which to relate to each other. If the Common Reader program’s funding is cut, we are cutting knowledge. So help us to reach out, find alternative sources of funding and do what it takes to save this program.
Knowledge is power.