Built on Love- The Background of Albion’s Big Read

“It’s a chance for the people in the community who genuinely love other people in the community to show them love” – Akaiia Ridley, Albion’s Big Read Assistant Director

Albion’s Big Read is amid their ninth year of reading experiences with the Big Read month, October, soon to be kicked off this Saturday, September 30th. Director Jess Roberts and Assistant Director Akaiia Ridley shared the work, love, and passion that goes into the preparation of Albion’s Big Read, along with the amazing rewards to come out of the program.

So, what is Albion’s Big Read?

It is a program that brings 8th through 10th graders, Big Read Leaders, Albion College Volunteers, and Big Read Staff together throughout the summer to meet and read a common book. Through the meetings, leaders learn the important skills of leading discussions and the opportunity to “change their relationship to the world, through changing their relationship to reading” Ridley said. Leaders read, eat, make art, and have fun all throughout the summer to gear up for the Big Read month.

Fast forward to October and the full community is celebrating and participating in Big Read activities. With the common reading book available for free all over the community, people gather for book discussion lead by the Big Read Leaders. Other Big Read events include free lectures and films, and numerous opportunities to connect and celebrate Albion through educational opportunities in multiple formats. The Big Read month concludes early November with a celebration and recognition of the amazing Leaders.

A Full Year of Preparation

There is so much that goes into the preparation for the month of events. Roberts shared that by November 3rd the planning for next October will begin with the Big Read staff and committee reading a handful of books to choose just one. Early January discussions with Marshall Public School teachers to nominate Big Read leaders will begin, continuing with monthly meetings with the nominees. And before you know it, its summertime and ready to have the parent meeting and summer meetings.

All this preparation is just for one month of events. Before the Big Read even kicked off in 2015, it took about a year and half of planning and discussion to get the program off its feet. Community members, young people, Albion College students and staff, all came together in a collaborative effort to determine the look of Albion’s Big Read. In the beginning it was a part of the national Big Read, so the program was limited to books from the pick list. After year three, through the generosity of donors and committee support, Albion’s Big Read branched away from the national organization allowing them to pick any book they would like. From that moment forward, every author has been a Person of Color.

Even though there is a lot of background work and planning, the directors wouldn’t change it for the world because the results of Big Read love have been so impactful. Supporting the Albion youth through community events has created stability and support for so many kids.

2023 Albion’s Big Read

This year the common reading is Mighty Inside by Sundee T. Frazier, set in 1955 as Melvin Robinson navigates his way through is first year of high school in a majority white school system. Books can be picked up for free at Book Hubs: City Hall, Albion District Library, Charles Snyder Building, Foundry Bakehouse & Deli, and Cutler Center in Stockwell Library.

Join Albion’s Big Read this Saturday September 30th from 1PM – 4PM at Holland Park for their kick-off and join in all the great events all October long. Check out the list on events here on our calendar.