Community Reads brings students, faculty, and staff together

The TMI community might be apart for the summer, but it’s coming together in a new way. The end of the school year and beginning of summer vacation marked the start of TMI’s new Upper School Community Reads program that is designed to build community through a set of shared experiences.

Lynn Lada reads How Dare the Sun Rise
Lynn Lada reading the Jones Library copy of How Dare the Sun Rise outside Coates Hall.

Greg Smith, former History Department Chair who left Texas this summer to move closer to family, handed over the reigns to TMI Librarian Lynn Lada to lead the Community Reads faculty committee of Alice Bilbrey, Sherry Brown, Rob Friedrich, Jodi Meyer, and Kellie Meyer. After he proposed the program last school year, Greg sent out the call for volunteers to serve on the committee and they quickly set out to select the first book. Each member suggested various titles and then took 1-2 books to read and review. But, it was Lynn’s recommendation of How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana that won the committee over.

While searching for and selecting new books from countries and cultures around the world to enhance the collection of the Jones Library, Lynn found Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s book on the list for Junior Library Guild selections. It was the description of her story–“I loved the hook,” Lynn said–that grabbed her attention and drew her into the book:

“Sandra Uwiringiyimana was ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. The rebels had come at night–wielding weapons, torches, and machetes. She had watched as her mother and six-year-old sister were gunned down in a refugee camp, far from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The committee wanted a book that would spark conversation for the community, lend itself to being cross-curricular to give faculty the option to work the book into their lesson plans during the year, be appropriate for grades 9-12, and had an author who would be dynamic and engaging who they could invite to visit the community. “How Dare the Sun Rise has a powerful message and will hopefully give our community a world view they may not have considered before,” said Alice. “I can’t wait for students to hear from Ms. Uwiringiyimana. We all have much to learn from her experience and I look forward to the continued conversations and ideas that come from her visit and from this shared experience.”

Alice Bilbrey reading How Dare the Sun Rise
Alice Bilbrey reading How Dare the Sun Rise in her backyard.

Not only does the book have a powerful message, but it also ties in with the school theme for next year: respect. TMI Headmaster, The Rev. Scott Brown, introduced the theme to faculty and staff in May. Building upon last year’s theme that “we belong to each other,” in 2018-2019, we will “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” (from the Baptismal Covenant of The Book of Common Prayer).

Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s story is “a unique and powerful insight into some of the deep issues facing humanity and our country,” said Greg. After surviving an attack on their refugee camp in Burundi and then moving to upstate New York, where she and her family were offered refugee status by the United States, her story “traces both epic societal upthrusts and the simple struggles of finding one’s identity in America.”

In order to deepen the community’s experience with this book, Sandra Uwiringiyimana will visit TMI to talk with students in both Daily Chapel and Upper School classes on August 29.

Lynn said she was absolutely tickled that the book she recommended was chosen and the committee is excited to launch this program and help it grow in the years to come.

Want to join in on the fun? Grab a copy of How Dare the Sun Rise and start reading! You’ll soon have countless talking points and conversation starters with any Upper School student, faculty, or staff at TMI when the school year begins in August. Already enjoying your copy? Post a picture of yourself reading How Dare the Sun Rise on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag it with #TMIReads

Contributed by Stephanie Gish
Director of Community Relations, TMI

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