NORWICH — Improve Norwich Now (INN) is returning with their spring One Community, One Book event on Saturday, April 15, and will be featuring "Stone Soup" by Ann McGovern, a children's book about getting creative and recognizing how much you can do with just a few resources.
The story follows a traveler who approaches an old woman within a community, asking her for food. The woman has no food to give him, and the traveler suggests she may have more to offer than she realizes.
"As it turns out, they’re able to make soup from a stone, ‘fancy that’ – that’s the repetitive phrase throughout the book, to basically just hint at the idea that you may think you have nothing, but with creativity and imagination and a realization of leveraging the resources that you do have, you can actually create a pretty cool product that you can share with other people," explained INN Co-founder Jen Westervelt.
"So there’s a great message in this book that we can do more than we realize we can with very little," she continued. "It’s just really neat to be able to share that message with our youth, our children, because in an age when I think sometimes creativity might be waning in ways that it once was before technology, this brings us back to our roots that, hey, sometimes the days of mud pies don’t have to be gone."
The event goes from 10 a.m. to noon in the Guernsey Memorial Library Community Room. Children can enjoy an interactive reading of "Stone Soup" by Westervelt, where they will not only get to listen to the book, but also help to create their own stone soup as a team.
"I’m going to go ahead and read the book interactively, so I’ll have the children who are there for the reading participate in the creation of the imaginary stone soup during the reading," said Westervelt. "I’m going to bring a pot and have like plastic vegetables and different things that they'll add in while I’m reading the book. So that will be fun."
In addition to the Guernsey Memorial Library, The Place has also collaborated with INN to assist with One Community, One Book. Both the library and The Place will be providing "Stone Soup" related crafts for attending children to enjoy, and INN Board Member Kisten Giglio will be providing board games based on the book.
One Community, One Book will also have their usual scavenger hunt through downtown Norwich businesses. Participating children will receive a copy of the book, a bag, a map of participating businesses, and a bookmark to check off found scavenger hunt items.
In total, Westervelt said 12 local businesses will be participating in the scavenger hunt.
"We have 12 stops on our map, starting with the library, the children’s section in the library, and going to visit the various different businesses," said Westervelt. "Some of those businesses have opted that they can handle the placing of the stickers, but then we also have some locations where volunteers will be placed, and they’ll welcome children and help them find the clue that they’re seeking."
Although the event begins at 10 a.m., Westervelt said there will be multiple book readings and opportunities to complete the crafts and play the "Stone Soup" game. However she recommends attendees come no later than 11:30 a.m., to ensure they have enough time to participate in each facet of the event.
One Community, One Book was started by Improve Norwich Now in the fall of 2019 to coincide with Small Business Saturday. Since then, the event has been held six times and grown to be held three times per year: in the spring, the fall, and in early summer at the Norwich City School District (NCSD).
Westervelt said the event has only gotten bigger and better with each event, thanks to the collaboration and support from other organizations, businesses, and community members. The Guernsey Memorial Library has been a partner from the beginning, and The Place and NCSD have joined in as partners over the years as well, and many others have come forward to show their support.
"It’s really grown, and I’m proud of that because this is the goal of Improve Norwich Now. The vision encapsulates collaboration, and so it’s really nice to be able to celebrate that One Community, One Book has successfully collaborated with community partners on a county-wide level to be able to promote this program," said Westervelt.
"Also reflecting on the funding opportunities that have come to support the books for each of our events, anything from business support, like Hale Street medical, Dr. Karen Banks-Linder, as well as Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as United Way helped us out one time," she added. "It’s just wonderful the different ways that the funds have come through to be able to put these books in the hands of children."
NCSD Librarian Roma Matott recently joined the team as well to assist with graphic design, and has created an upgraded version of the scavenger hunt map, and Family Enrichment Network has gotten involved in the past to help with sticker and bookmark creation. Commerce Chenango has helped promote the event with a creative window display related to the book.
Westervelt said One Community, One Book opportunities are also provided to Fostering Futures New York Chenango County (FFNYCC) families. If they aren't able to make it to the main event, INN will provide all the materials and supplies needed for foster and kinship families to enjoy the book and activities at home with their FFNYCC volunteer.
"Every book that has been purchased for or donated for our various offerings has landed in the hands of a child. So that’s really nice," said Westervelt.
In the future, she hopes to feature more local authors and their children's books. She encourages any local authors, or those with connections to a children's author, to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org for opportunities to be featured at a One Community, One Book event.
For more information on One Community, One Book and Improve Norwich Now, visit ImproveNorwichNow.org or the Improve Norwich Now Facebook page.