During freshman orientation, the English department played a role in introducing the campus One Book program, which will continue to have campus-wide activities throughout the duration of the school year. This specific program focused on familiarizing incoming students with the One Book program, reading and writing strategies, and the McNairy Library. One of the activities held during this orientation session pertained to annotating a few pages of the One Book, All American Boys.
The freshmen were tasked with familiarizing themselves with the text and the library’s resources in a variety of activities. In one activity, students were tasked with reading two selected pages of the book, which had been projected on the wall, and writing comments about what they’d read. Students were challenged to write an original comment, respond to another student’s comment and discuss their thoughts with the members of their groups. This was a task that encouraged interaction with the authors of the text, as well as with their peers. Unlike reading the book alone, another layer was added by the ability to view the thoughts of others who were experiencing the same text in a different way. This sparked meaningful conversation among groups.
Being that this was a required activity and a book they had never read, it was unclear as to how the project would be received. Luckily, the students gave very thoughtful and encouraging comments. We had students analyzing what they believed to be the themes of the book, based off the two pages of All American Boys that they were interacting with. They very astutely detected themes of race, prejudice and violence and commented on the authors’ word choices that conveyed these themes. Students did not shy away from addressing the hard realities that are unfortunately a part of the society we live in.
The reactions and discussions were exactly the goals of the orientation activity and the One Book program as a whole. The selection of All American Boys was a calculated choice to engage the community of Millersville students in the awareness of the reality that race is still an important issue to be conscious of and create a population of contentious citizens who will take these morals into the world.
Incoming students began their experience as marauders with a powerful message as to the type of community we would like to foster as a university, both socially and academically. This was of great thanks to All American Boys, the students who participated and the faculty members and volunteers who are instrumental to the program.