Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Live in Sullivan West? They’ve got a book for you

By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE — July 6, 2010 — Kit Robison landed a copy of Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” last year – and couldn’t put the book down.
“It’s a compelling story,” he recalled of a tale about an American mountaineer who harrowingly missed reaching the top of one of the world’s tallest peaks – K2 – only to climb into the surprisingly welcome arms of poor families in northwestern Pakistan.
That “accident” led him to build a school for the families’ children, and another, and another, until more than 130 dotted the barren landscape.
His relentless and selfless humanitarianism earned him Pakistan’s highest medal, and he’s up for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
Robison’s dream is a bit smaller – to get the people he knows, including kids, to read Mortenson’s dramatic and uplifting story this summer.
“Three Cups of Tea” is the focus of “Sullivan Reads,” a partnership between Sullivan West Central School District and the Western Sullivan Public Library system.
In fact, it’s the first summer reading program for the district, and Superintendent Ken Hilton hopes it catches on.
“I’m hardly ‘assigning’ this to the community, but I sure think it would be of value,” Hilton explained.
The book comes in three forms: one for adults, one for teens, and one for young children. The district and library have bought a number of copies, making them available to kids and adults in all three branches of the library.
There’s even a digital copy available for those with e-readers like the Kindle or iPad.
Some SW students already read the book earlier this year, and Cindy Humleker’s sixth grade class even raised money to donate to Mortenson’s humanitarian work, called “Pennies for Peace.”
No outlay of money is required, however, for this summer reading program.
“It’s not our place to promote a charity,” said Hilton. “But it sure is our place to promote reading.”
And understanding, added Robison.
“The book does a great job of putting a human face on people who are very distant, but by virtue of politics, our worlds are intertwined,” he explained.
Robison is pastor of the Jeffersonville and North Branch-based First Grace Lutheran Parish, and he was one of several clergypeople Hilton engaged to allay any concerns about the topics and cultures “Three Cups of Tea” illuminates.
Northwest Pakistan, after all, is home to more than peaceful Muslims. It also has hosted members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, people whom Mortenson meets and tries to understand on his adventures.
The book by no means endorses a particular lifestyle, religion or culture, said Robison. Instead, it brings understanding to a world that is otherwise alien to most Americans – in a way that’s accessible to and appropriate for all ages.
“Let’s face it: he’s building schools for children,” Robison remarked, “and I think children can connect with that story.”
Robison, Hilton and many others are hoping the entire community embraces the opportunity to learn more about the world around them, whilst honing critically important reading skills.
“People who are not fluent in literacy,” said Hilton bluntly, “... I think are screwed in the 21st century.”
Still, getting hundreds of people of all ages (and schedules) to read a single book by September will be a tall order, so Hilton and Robison are both planning community discussions, maybe even games and prizes for readers, later in the summer.
“People in many ways don’t broaden themselves, they narrow themselves,” Hilton assessed. “... I was hired in part to bring this school community together.”
However, he has a hunch “Three Cups of Tea” will be a winner, and if it’s successful, a community committee will be formed to recommend another reading choice for next summer.
“You know the power of literature,” he remarked.
Robison is on board, too.
“I will try every opportunity I get to have kids take this book out of the library this summer,” he vowed.
For more information, a copy of the book or to start up your own reading group, contact either your local library or Hilton at 482-4610, ext. 3000.

top of page  |  home  |  archives