NORWICH — In conjunction with Small Business Saturday on Saturday, November 26, local nonprofit Improve Norwich Now (INN) will be hosting a One Community, One Book event, along with The Place and the Guernsey Memorial Library.
From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Chenango County parents can bring their children to the library for the free event, which includes a live author reading of "Too Much Cheese" by local author Herm Sherwood-Sitts, book-related crafts, and a scavenger hunt through downtown Norwich businesses. Participants will also receive a copy of "Too Much Cheese."
"The library is basically home base, so we have author readings, we have the copy of the book that’s given there. We have crafts that will take place. But then the participants will receive the scavenger hunt maps and the bookmark, and that's where the event ripples out into the community and promotes our small businesses," said INN Co-founder Jen Westervelt.
"Families will take a copy of the map that highlights the businesses they should visit to look for a clue, that is related to 'Too Much Cheese,' our book this time around," she continued. "Once they find the clue, either a business owner or an Improve Norwich Now volunteer will put a sticker on their bookmark corresponding to the clue."
She said searching for and finding the clues also strengthens literacy through reading comprehension and associations between the real world and the book, something she calls "literacy in live action."
"The children are looking and the clue is hidden, they’re searching for it, and when they find it it’s really fun and exciting that they found this clue, and then to make the association that it’s also connected to the book promotes that comprehension of the book. So it's a real win. It’s literacy in live action, which is so cool," she said.
Westervelt said anyone can show up to the library community room any time between 10 a.m. and noon to participate, but for the full experience, participants are encouraged to arrive at 10 a.m.
From there, the group will be split, with half staying at the library for book reading and crafts, and the other going out into the community for the scavenger hunt. When they return, the groups will switch, to ensure all participating children get to enjoy each activity.
The event is not only geared toward promoting literacy in Chenango County youth, but also to promote local small businesses during Small Business Saturday.
"We certainly want to encourage participants of One Community, One Book to peruse the businesses. While they’re looking for the clues they’re also seeing the products offered at these businesses, and services, and perhaps even doing some Christmas shopping while they’re there, to support the local small businesses," said Westervelt.
Westervelt said as a former English teacher, literacy has always been a passion of hers. Starting One Community, One Book has allowed INN to promote literacy in fun an engaging ways since 2019.
Since its inception, One Community, One Book has grown from a single event each year to being held three times per year. Westervelt credits the event's success to community collaborations.
"We’ve actually found really meaningful partnerships with Guernsey Memorial Library and The Place, to be able to offer One Community, One Book. Which is ideal, because the collaboration of these meaningful organizations in our community only benefits the community that much more," she said. "The collaboration is so key. It’s that whole idea that when we come together and we shoulder the weight it’s so much easier to pull off a quality event, as opposed to leaving it to one entity to do it all. So that's why the collaboration has been so meaningful."
One Community, One Book returns to the Norwich area every Small Business Saturday, during the Week of the Young Child in April, and toward the end of the school year in a collaboration with the Norwich City School District.
"When we partner with the school district, that’s a chapter book. So it engages some older readers as well, and is more of a month-long event at the schools with teachers teaching corresponding material and doing corresponding activities. So that's an even larger scale for our community," said Westervelt. "Last year was our first year doing it the three times, and we just naturally fell into that connection, and now it seems that that's going to stay."
The event is also made possible by the generosity of local donors and volunteers. In the past, Dr. Karen Banks-Lindner, SUNY Morrisville, Norwich Rotary, and Morrison Healthcare, among others, have contributed to the event.
Westervelt said volunteers include INN board members, community members, and representatives from local organizations.
"These are people who care about literacy and improving their community. So them giving a couple hours of their time on a Saturday morning every now and then makes such a huge impact," she said. "It’s also really cool when they come back afterward and share how much they enjoyed the process, because it's a scavenger hunt."
Additionally, One Community, One Book would not be possible without the participation of downtown Norwich businesses, who hide book-related clues in their stores. Participating stores for Saturday's event include Norwich Copies Plus, Live Event NY, The Cottage Bakery, McNeil Jewelers, Minty's Candies and Treats, Season's Gift Shop, Nina's Pizzeria, Ashby Ann, In Motion Designs, A Little Herbal Shoppe, Deja Brew, and Serenity Hobbies.
Area businesses who would like to participate in One Community, One Book may do so by contacting Improve Norwich Now through their website, ImproveNorwichNow.org. Westervelt said there are no requirements other than a willingness to participate in the event.
She also emphasized that Improve Norwich Now is a county-wide organization, and the One Community, One Book event is open to anyone.
"This is open to everyone, everywhere. Improve Norwich Now is a Chenango County-wide organization, so even though our name and our mission start with Norwich, our vision ripples out to include all of Chenango County," said Westervelt. "Feel free to bring everyone and spread the word. This isn't solely for Norwich residents."
More information on the One Community, One Book event can be found on The Place Facebook page, and the Improve Norwich Now Facebook page.