Oswego Reads unites campus and town through common book

Oswego Reads, an organization that has been around for roughly a year, aims to create a community reading experience for the enjoyment of all ages across Oswego.

Associate Provost Rameen Mohammadi, who sits on the committee, said Oswego Reads is a "community organization advocating reading by adopting a common book." The common book for this semester is "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson, which is a New York Times bestseller.

The book describes his transition from a mountain-climber to a humanitarian, where he committed to reducing poverty and educating girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He co-founded the Central Asia Institute, which has built over 131 schools and has educated over 58,000 students throughout Asia.

Oswego Reads was formed after the superintendent of the Oswego City School District, Bill Crist, was driving through a small Upstate New York town and saw the town was involved in a community reading program. Crist thought a reading program would be a beneficial idea for the City of Oswego, and brought the idea to Bill Reilly, the owner of River’s End Bookstore, and Laura Ryder, director of Literacy for the Oswego School District. Crist, Reilly and Ryder also chair the Oswego Reads committee.

For the past month, three speakers, Sarfraz Mian, visited Oswego State, Dr. Salahuddin Qazi, Dr. Naseem Ishaq and Mrs. Mara Ahmed, to discuss the Middle East and Islam, which was the focus of "Three Cups."

The challenge for the Oswego Reads committee is trying to find a book that all ages can read. Ryder had the chance to hear Mortenson speak and knew the book came in three versions. Since the book is available in versions for all ages, the school district of Oswego is having all of the students read the book.

Ryder said, "SUNY Oswego has been actively involved in Oswego Reads from the very beginning. Bill Reilly, Bill Crist and I went to the college with the idea of a community read." Rameen Mohammadi and Howard Gordon, executive assistant to President Stanley, embraced the idea and shared it with Stanley gave her support.

"Young children have been reading ‘Three Cups of Tea’ with enthusiasm," Mohammadi said, which is the purpose.

Another positive aspect of Oswego Reads is that it provides education about different cultures; "Three Cups" teaches readers about the Middle East. Mohammadi said it was easy for people to not think about the Middle East and other places. The opportunity to read books, including "Three Cups" shows there are people in the world who are not given the chances Americans are given.