Janesville79.4°

Group wants residents to read about life in poverty

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Stacy Vogel
July 24, 2009

It’s one thing to know poverty exists.


It’s another thing entirely to experience it.


Author Barbara Ehrenreich crossed that divide by willingly living in poverty for her book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.”


Rock County Vision 2020 isn’t asking you to go that far, but it does want you to read Ehrenreich’s book and another that tells a personal story of growing up in poverty.


The group, dedicated to eliminating childhood poverty by the year 2020, is joining forces with Arrowhead Library System for a community book read. Residents can read “Nickel and Dimed” and/or “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls and participate in discussions at local libraries this summer and fall.


The group got the idea from a similar program in Appleton, where more than 3,000 people read “Nickel and Dimed” for a community book read, an Appleton representative told Vision 2020 last summer.


“This is just another way to raise awareness, to get the word out” about poverty, said Marc Perry, chairman of Vision 2020.


In “The Glass Castle,” Walls tells of growing up grindingly poor in an eccentric family and fighting to escape the cycle of poverty.


In “Nickel and Dimed,” Ehrenreich disguises herself as a member of the working poor, trying to get by on wages for jobs such as waitress and maid.


“We wanted that first-person story and character that you can identify with,” Perry said.


ECHO and libraries across Rock County and will host discussions about the two books starting in August and running through October. Most of the discussions will take place in the second half of September.


Arrowhead Library System is excited to participate, said Martha Gammons, public relations coordinator.


“I think it’s kind of natural to have the library support a reading project, encouraging people of course to read some very good books,” she said.


Each discussion will include library and Vision 2020 facilitators, she said. Participants will talk about the books and hear a brief presentation about poverty in Rock County.


“I don’t want anyone to think it’s going to be a lecture,” she said. “It’s going to be a discussion of the books.”


The libraries are working to make sure people have access to copies of the books at the libraries and other outlets, she said. Book World in Janesville and Turtle Creek Books in Beloit will stock extra copies, and people can find used copies on Web sites such as Amazon, she said.


After the book discussions, Vision 2020 plans to hold a community meeting to talk about eliminating poverty in Rock County, Perry said.


“The book is kind of like the ‘What?’, the discussion is the ‘So what?’, and when we get together to do the conference will be the ‘Now what?’” he said.


BOOK DISCUSSIONS

Discussions of the books “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” and “The Glass Castle” will be:


-- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, Clinton Public Library, 214 Mill St.—“The Glass Castle.”


-- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, ECHO, 65 S. High St., Janesville—“Nickel and Dimed.”


-- 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, Eager Free Public Library, 39 W. Main St., Evansville—“Nickel and Dimed.”


-- 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, Orfordville Public Library, 203 W. Beloit St.—“Nickel and Dimed.”


-- 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, Hedberg Public Library, 316 Main St., Janesville—“Nickel and Dimed.”


-- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, ECHO, 65 S. High St., Janesville—“The Glass Castle.”


-- 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, Milton Public Library, 430 E. High St., Milton—“Nickel and Dimed.”


-- 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, Beloit Public Library, 605 Eclipse Blvd.—“Nickel and Dimed.”



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