EPL starts a new chapter with Read 2020 monthly challenge


Owen Stidman/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. The library is hosting a 2020 reading challenge encouraging readers to choose and read books following different monthly guidelines.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Public Library is challenging residents to pick up new books this year with the introduction of the Read 2020 Challenge.

The program was proposed in 2019 by Katy Jacob, one of EPL’s Lifelong Learning and Literacy librarians. Each month, participants will receive a prompt challenging them to read a book within its guidelines. Categories range from books in translation to graphic novels to beach reads. EPL will curate a monthly list of books to accompany their subject suggestion, according to its website.

Jacob said she brought up the idea after hearing about another library’s winter reading program, which set similar monthly goals. She said she decided to adapt it into a year-long challenge, and she hopes it will inspire residents to broaden their literary horizons.

“People can experience other cultures and learn new things when they read outside of what they normally read,” Jacob said. “A lot of the books that we’re highlighting are intentionally diverse voices and diverse stories, and that will hopefully lead people into being able to further conversations and communication within our community.”

While she encourages participants to try out as many of the suggested categories as possible, Jacob said she sees the program as more open-ended than restrictive. Participants who complete any month’s prompt can visit the library and enter a drawing to win a gift card — no matter what point in the year they finish reading.

Elizabeth Bird, EPL’s collection development manager, also spearheaded the creation of the library’s 101 Great Books for Kids list. She started the program after she moved to Evanston from the New York Public Library, and said curating recommendations for visitors strengthens its ties with the community.

“In my experience, people are desperate for experts,” Bird said. “They’re desperate for people to tell them, ‘Hey, you want to know what the best is in this category. We have experts. We have gatekeepers. We have librarians who have trained in this who have gone through everything to find the best stuff for you. Here it is.’”

When deciding on categories, Jacob said EPL intentionally chose a variety of options, so all participants could find a prompt that interested them. She also said the monthly suggestions would feature both new and old releases, and each month’s list would share a wide spectrum of voices.

Jacob said she thinks EPL is essential to facilitating discussions and connections between residents, and she hopes Read 2020 will help fulfill that purpose.

“I really hope to see people in Evanston get excited about reading and start conversations with one another based on what they’re reading,” Jacob said. “I want them to be enthusiastic about seeing reading as a portal to greater understanding of each other.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton1