How many different functions can a book perform to provoke new thinking, spread a message, and engage its readers in revitalizing the momentum of creating community?
A book can be defined as a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers. By design, a book is made to be held by human hands to be discovered, consumed, and used.The setting of my children’s fictional novel “The Garden Raid” is a small town in upstate New York in 1967. Like many small towns across America, Hudson Falls has fallen victim to the economic and social trials of disappearing industries, and such issues can lead to a lost sense of community among its residents. However, many of the residents are invested in creative and innovated proposals to better their neighborhood.
So, I wonder how many different ways books, in this one particular case, “The Garden Raid” can come off the pages to complement the good work our neighbors are doing so that the good continues.
I would like to share with you some of my recent experiences as I explore this wondering…
In September, the Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market collaborated with Front Porch Storytelling to create an event that serves as an opportunity for local authors such as Matthew Rozell, whose work includes the history-focused novel “The Things Our Fathers Saw,” to show residents of Hudson Falls the significance of the town that they live in and how important it is for its sense of community to stay alive despite the challenges that lay ahead.
“I think there’s a recognition, especially with this book and the subject of this book, that this was a great place to grow up and it really still is a great place to grow up,” he said.
“Like any town, it’s got its problems. Like any town, problems have solutions and it takes people who are dedicated to address those problems. I grew up here, so it’s kinda like a way of giving back, myself.”
The farmers’ market is the initiative of Joelle Timms of Phoenix Rising, a non-profit organization that aims to rejuvenate Hudson Falls. As a village trustee, Timms believes that the key to solving issues is the involvement of everyone in the community.
“I think that the more people that collaborate, the more will get done,” she said. “It’s like they say that it takes a village to raise a child. I think that collaboration is so important because you need so many hands to accomplish great things. One person alone can’t do that, and I think that’s what’s most important.”
Richard McCann, owner of McCann’s Pharmacy & Adirondack Compounding is another neighbor investing in his community. The pharmacy is a third-generation family owned business, which represents small town America at its heart. He is selling locally-themed books such as “The Garden Raid” as a way to promote community. McCann’s Pharmacy and Front Porch Storytelling are donating the sales of the book at the pharmacy back to their neighbors.
“I’m all about giving back to the community. We’re still here because this is a great village,” McCann said. “It may not be like the good old days that we remember, but anything that promotes community is positive and I’m all for it.”
Among those looking to revitalize the town’s community is the Hudson River Music Hall (HRMH), which intends to do so through music, theater and related arts. The proceeds from the sale of “The Garden Raid” at this past weekend’s farmers’ market are going towards creating after school programs for fourth and fifth-grade children at the music hall.
HRMH’s Jonathan Newell is among those who grew up in Hudson Falls, and he sees the significance of bringing the town’s members, especially kids, together and helping them see their potential, particularly through music and visual arts.
“I think some kids gravitate towards the arts naturally, and then for other kids, they don’t necessarily know that they have those abilities until they try it out, too,” Newell said.
“And then for other kids, the arts is the only way that they can express themselves comfortably. So it’s so important to keep the arts alive in schools, and it’s a doorway into a much larger world and to a different way of looking at things and to using the creative side of your brain, too. For some kids, this a real spark for them and it will take them far.”
Education is also a big focus for revitalizing communities, and one Hudson Falls resident who sees its significance is Kindergarten Center and Intermediate School Principal Michael McTague, who notes the school’s history of working with authors and the importance of giving students the chance to ask questions from the authors of the stories that they love so much, which leads to an increase in their interest towards reading and exploring more literature.
“Students are engaged through connection to ‘their world,’ which certainly includes common interests, activities and especially community,” he said. “The idea that students can read about the place where they live in a story results in excitement about the material due to that connection.”
McTague also acknowledged how educational and performance opportunities through different forms of art give students the chance to grow in and outside the classroom.
“Students at the fourth-grade level are generally beginning to branch out into the arts and forming opinions on entertainment including literature,” he said. “The ability for some of our youth in Hudson Falls to participate in opportunities involving performance of any kind is a wonderful way to extend the district performance arts curriculum. Last year’s performances of fourth grade students at the book release of ‘The Garden Raid’ event represent examples of these great opportunities.”
As you have read our communities across America are alive and striving to be a place we are all proud to call home. By human nature we are all one community, so let’s join our neighbors and used our creativity to complement the good so the good continues.
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