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The Portage community came together on a March evening to build a love of reading through the third annual Portage CommuniTEEN Read, a common read program developed by Portage Central and Northern High Schools along with the Portage District Library and Bookbug Bookstore. The event was partially funded by an MEC Strengthening Schools grant.

CommuniTEEN unites the author of the year’s selected book with teens and the public to bring the story to life and inspire readers. Sara Brown, Portage Central’s librarian, applied for our grant to help host Code Name Verity author Elizabeth Wein at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Experience.

Portage CommuniTEEN Community Read ProgramPortage Central Librarian Sara Brown and author Elizabeth Wein prepare to inspire teens and adults at the Portage CommuniTEEN Read event at the Air Zoo.

“We really want each book that we select for CommuniTEEN to create bonding opportunities for families. The ultimate purpose of this program is to get parents and teens reading together to open up lines of communication, not only about the books they read, but also about the greater world and their own lives. The themes in this book offer a wonderful platform to do just that,” said Brown.

The book also provided opportunities for cross-curricular explorations through history, English, creative writing and art, a key element in motivating the 800-1,000 teens and adults who participated in this year’s program. “We also look for authors who can serve as role models and share their processes,” Brown added.

Wein, a passionate and enthusiastic speaker, knows a thing or two about dedication and focus. In fact, she worked on her first published book for 10 years and wrote her first novel in sixth grade. She also understands the value of community in both reading and writing. “You learn to make sense of literature by talking with others about it, which is why programs like this have such a lasting impact,” she explained.

Code Name Verity propels readers into World War II where a young female spy named Verity is captured by the Gestapo and faces the grim choice of confession or execution. The book teaches readers the lasting value of true friendship, the groundbreaking and vital role of women in wartime and beyond, and most importantly, the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

“The last one is my number one message in nearly everything I create,” said Wein, who writes primarily for teens, “Because if you don’t learn how to be accountable when you are young, it becomes much harder to do that as an adult.”

Apply for a Strengthening Schools Grant

Now through Oct. 15, 2018 any teacher, administrator or school official in a public elementary, middle or high school serving students in our service territory may apply for a grant of up to $2,500 to support classroom needs, special projects, technology, or academic clubs/organizations. School districts can receive multiple grants, not to exceed a total of $5,000 for the award cycle. Applications are evaluated and funding decisions made by a committee of MEC members without knowledge of the school or district. Funds will be awarded in January 2019.

Click here for more details about our grants and to apply.