Books Build Bridges Community Literacy Initiative

PORTSMOUTH — Imagine a future world where death has been eliminated and individuals are selected to meet the challenges resulting from overpopulation. It is the setting for the latest book chosen for local tenth graders to read as part of the Books Build Bridges program.

Books Build Bridges is a community initiative designed to promote the value of reading by connecting the community through common dialogue regarding a specific book. The foundation of this two-year program is simply to put books in the hands of children. By sharing a guided experience with the added value of a community conversation about the book, it will foster both a lifelong love of learning and a stronger community.

For several years, the Rotary Club of Portsmouth has donated dictionaries to local schools as part of its literacy program. As technologies evolved and fewer and fewer children used physical dictionaries, the group wanted to update their curriculum. An ad hoc committee was formed in 2017, including representatives from the Rotary Club, Clark Memorial Library (Shawnee State University), Portsmouth Public Library, and South Central Ohio Educational Service Center. Working together, these organizations created the Books Build Bridges program.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the program focused on eighth graders and provided a copy of Not a Drop to Drink by Ohio author Mindy McGinnis to every eighth grader. participating schools in Scioto County. Programming that year included an author’s conference at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts for eighth graders, an author’s meet at the Portsmouth Public Library, and an author’s conference for students of the Shawnee State University.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the program provided copies of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan to every fifth grader at participating Scioto County schools. Unfortunately, the associated programming had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This school year, the focus is on tenth graders, who all received copies of Neal Shusterman’s Scythe. The story is a sci-fi novel, which tells the disturbing tale of two teenagers in a dystopia near future who live in a world where death has literally been defeated. More than 800 books were provided to local students in October 2021 and they were all invited to attend a lecture by Ohio author, author and dystopian writer Mindy McGinnis at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts in March. McGinnis will speak with education and literature students at Shawnee State University later the same day.

McGinnis’ visit will also include a meeting with regional authors at the Portsmouth Public Library from 6pm to 7.30pm on Thursday 17 March. This event is free and open to the public. McGinnis as well as Jack Adkins, Kurt Dinan and Jay S. Willis (also regional authors) will all share information about their writing styles and have their books available for purchase.

Mindy McGinnis, a former school librarian, is an Edgar Award-winning novelist who writes in multiple genres, including post-apocalyptic, historical, thriller, contemporary, mystery, and fantasy. Although her surroundings may change, you can always count on Mindy’s books to offer courage, truth, and an unflinching look at humanity and the world around us. A ninth-generation farmer, Mindy attributes much of her character to growing up on a farm in Ohio, learning the value of physical labor and the harshness of the natural world early in life. A lot of

his writings reflect life in small towns and aspects of rural poverty. Mindy still lives and works in her hometown of Cardington and is dedicated to making herself available to financially disadvantaged school districts and communities.

Jack Adkins is an IT professional at a small hospital in Eastern Kentucky and author of the upcoming High Fantasy novel The Blood of a Dragon, Book 1 in the Dragons of Dorwine series. As an avid fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jack’s writing style is a mix of slow-burning Epic Fantasy (like Tolkien and Jordan) and the fast-paced swords and sorcery of Salvatore and Denning. . His writing style is strongly influenced by his love of South and Central American cultures and his passion for Reformation-era Christian theology. Jack is a thirty-year Dungeons & Dragons veteran who has been writing campaigns, epic character stories, and short stories for most of his life. Now he’s channeling those skills into a career in fantasy writing.

Kurt Dinan is a high school English teacher living in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and four children. Her first novel, Don’t Get Caught, won the Junior Literary Guild award. Her second novel, The Scam List, was published in 2020.

Jay S. Willis is from Portsmouth and graduated from Portsmouth High School. He is a graduate of Capital University and Capital University Law School and has been a licensed attorney for over 25 years. He is a former judge and now works as an assistant prosecutor. His goal as an author is to create engaging and fun work to support a generation throughout their lives as fantasy readers: from clever chapter books to sprawling epics. From an early age, Jay was fascinated by storytelling and he wrote his first books in elementary school. An avid Dungeons & Dragons role-player, growing up in the 80s obsessed with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, his reading and writing interests have always been skewed towards the fantasy and sci-fi genres.

Sponsors of this year’s Book Build Bridges program are: Rotary Club of Portsmouth, Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, Ohio Arts Council, Portsmouth Public Library, Shawnee State University and the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center.

Jay S.Willis

Kurt Dinan

Jack Adkins

Mindy McGinnis

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