Edmonton book club prospers in an unusual setting
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There are subtle differences.
This book club doesn’t come with the usual brunch. The members haven’t all come to discuss the same book and there are bars on the windows and guards at the doors.
Beyond that, however, the book club at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre is still about literature and getting people excited about reading.
“Our main focus is reading for pleasure, so we try to bring whatever we can that they are interested in,” said Laura Young a community librarian who works out of the Castle Downs branch.
Young said the program began about three years ago with a goal of giving the young men serving time in the building a desire to read.
“What they really wanted was something to promote reading and reading culture in the centre and to make it fun,” she said.
Young now has three book clubs at the centre — one for boys under 14, another for the older boys who range from 15 to 20 and a third group for young women. She said over the almost three years the program has been running hundreds of kids have spent time in the book club.
She said the centre falls within the catchment area for her branch and so it only makes sense they would find a way to reach out to them.
“We are responsible for this neighbourhood and they are part of our neighbourhood,” she said.
Young said when the group meets instead a discussion about one particular book they just talk about reading.
“They all read different things and they talk about what they have been reading and share,” she said.
She said the club members are interested in popular titles along with books about youth caught in crime or drug culture, but surprisingly romance novelists like Nicholas Sparks are also very popular.
“That is the part that was really surprising, but I can say that with authority having been there for two years, almost three,” she said.
Overall young said the library is working to become a place where the offenders can come when they leave the centre as well.
“We want to be a connection the current world, so when they come out they are not totally lost.”