My turn

"Books to Bridge the Region" brings readers together

2011-10-23T00:00:00Z "Books to Bridge the Region" brings readers togetherBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
October 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Northwest Indiana has the good fortune to have among its many civic organizations a number of groups that focus on literacy. For the last five years, I have had the honor of serving as the editor of the Northwest Indiana Literacy Coalition's newsletter and we have had the opportunity to spotlight many of those innovative groups.

Northwest Indiana Literacy Coalition is a literacy organization that promotes reading and literacy through its interactions with other groups. Acting as a clearing house, NWILC provides a means for organizations across Northwest Indiana to connect to providers of basic literacy services (GED programs, English as a Second Language lessons, libraries, etc.).

Among the affiliated groups that have been highlighted over the years, Books to Bridge the Region stands out. Founded by members of a four-year program to promote literacy through a regional reading agenda, the founders wanted to continue this important work.

The idea was to find a theme or set of books from different reading levels that would provide a common point of discussion, a large scale reading group that could bring people together.

This project's goal is to create conversations among families and the communities and to foster critical thinking skills related to a theme. For 2011, the theme is "Learning from the past."

The books in this year's program, selected by a  committee comprised of educators, librarians and booksellers, serves as an opportunity for families and the communities stretching across this very diverse part of the state to talk about what we have read from this list, and find common ground in the process.

The beginner (children's) book category features Candace Fleming's "Boxes for Katje," set in post-World War II Holland.

The story is based on Katje's mother's experiences with privation after the war. When Katje's pen pal from Indiana learns of her community's suffering, she organizes a food and clothing drive for the people of Katje's community in Holland. The two communities are ultimately linked forever in a way that they never expected.

The middle reader category features John Boyne's "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," a tale of Bruno, a boy growing up in Berlin during World War II. Boyne tells the story of how Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy who lives in a gated area inside Berlin and, like a lot of the boys and girls there, wears striped clothes that Bruno takes to be pajamas.

Following this Holocaust-themed book, the adult category features John Katzenbach's "Hart's War," set in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II.

The story is centered on the story of Tommy Hart, a former law student whose B-25 is shot down by the Germans. He finds himself the only surviving member of his fighter crew and his story follows the bigotry of American POWs ostensibly fighting for the same values juxtaposed against the obvious racism exhibited by the Nazis.

For more information on the Books to Bridge the Region, visit or call (219) 931-5100, ext. 310.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

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