CLSC Young Readers kicks off its 2014 season

School may be out for the summer but the 2014 CLSC Young Readers program is gearing up for nine weeks of excitement, adventure, adversity and an appreciation for nations and people from every corner of the globe.

As the Young Readers program celebrates its 20th year in sharing and discussing classic and new novels, Matt Ewalt, the new associate director of education and youth services, said he is excited for the season to begin.

When it came to selecting this year’s books, Ewalt sought help from the Scholastic Store in New York City. 

“One of my best experiences was visiting the Scholastic bookstore and introducing Chautauqua to the staff,” Ewalt said about his visit to the iconic store.

After explaining Chautauqua’s mission and tradition to encourage the enjoyment of reading, Ewalt said the staff’s eyes lit up as they flew to the shelves to pull down suggestions for Young Readers. 

With 10 books atop this summer’s list, readers ages 9 to 14 will be encouraged to enjoy reading as they explore the adversity often brought on by challenges such as poverty, war and isolation. 

“This year’s list has the opportunity to challenge kids and incorporate parents into the dialogue,” Ewalt said.

Kicking off Week One of the Young Readers will be the half-century classic The Phantom Tollbooth. While accompanying Milo on his journey of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom at 4:15 p.m., the Young Readers will be able to join the book’s illustrator, Jules Feiffer, as he visits Chautauqua for the first time in the Strohl Arts Center.

Week Two will offer readers a trip throughout their taste buds with the book, What The World Eats, written by Faith D’Aluisio and photographed by Peter Menzel. While exploring the importance of eating locally and making smart and healthy food choices, the Young Readers’ travel from page to page will escort them through 21 countries with 25 families and learn about nearly 500 meals. 

Words in the Dust will take readers to Afghanistan in Week Eight as they see the world through the lens of Zulaikha, a girl who, despite her problems, hopes for better opportunities in life in a country torn apart by the Taliban. Written by an Afghanistan War veteran, Trent Reedy, the book is told from the point of view of Zulaikha. Ewalt said readers will develop a sincere respect for girls and Middle Eastern culture.

Week Five features two books. Esperanza Rising is suggested for the 9 to 11-year-old age group. Readers follow a young Esperanza as her life shifts from one of affluence and glamour in her beloved Mexico to one of survival and manual labor in Southern California in the early 1930s.

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, suggested for ages 12 and above, readers will have a hard time holding back their giggles and empathizing with Junior, as he tells his story — with art — about trying to adjust to a new environment without betraying all he’s ever known.

Every Wednesday, in addition to discussing the novels, readers will have the opportunity to connect what they have been reading in a real-world setting. And for young readers up to the challenge, those who complete 16 books from the program’s historic list, including Chautauqua: An American Utopia, will be awarded the Young Readers Medallion.