Every year for the past 12 years, Wilton Library has organized a town-wide “Wilton Reads” program, inviting residents and others in the community to read one book and then engage in a variety of programming inspired by that book choice. For this year’s reading program, the library is partnering with the Wilton School District in the community reading program, and the book selection is meant to be a profound and very meaningful experience for participants who span several age groups.
The book chosen by the organizers as the book selection for Wilton Reads 2019 is The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the #1 New York Times bestseller by author Heather Morris. The book, historical fiction based on the life of Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov, is a tale of hope, courage and survival in the face of horrors of the Holocaust. The book will provide a central theme for discussions on the Holocaust and the lessons to be learned by the events of WWII.
Elaine Tai-Lauria, executive director of Wilton Library, and Fran Kompar, director of digital learning for Wilton Schools, revealed the book choice during last night’s Board of Education meeting.
“With each passing day, we are losing the oral histories of Holocaust survivors and that cumulative voice of the generation that lived through World War II. Indeed, with the appearance of anti-Semitic symbols over the past few years, it seems that intolerance is seeping from the shadows. As they say: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ It is therefore essential that we keep history alive and to pass on the learning to future generations,” Tai-Lauria said.
Guided by the library’s mission to “inform, connect, enrich and inspire our community,” Tai-Lauria formed a committee within the library to bring a slate of programs together. She also reached out to Dr. Kevin Smith, Wilton Public Schools’ superintendent, to collaborate on bringing awareness of the Holocaust to the community.
Smith noted, “Elaine approached me some time ago about collaborating on the library’s Wilton Reads program, so when she and Fran Kompar started working on this initiative, I was on board immediately. Tolerance and acceptance are such mainstays of our teaching that the lessons about the Holocaust help remind us what can happen when communities forget these important tenets.”
Tai-Lauria acknowledged the magnitude of such a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary program centered around a book about the Holocaust.
“I will readily concede that this is a very ambitious program; it’s a big undertaking, however a very important one. However the Library Board of Trustees and employees are committed to doing the best job we can,” she said.
The library’s programming plans are being finalized and will be scheduled over several weeks. Among the programs will be book discussions, a Holocaust survivor talk, an art presentation, a Wilton Clergy Association program, a concert featuring music written by Holocaust victims, a poetry seminar, documentary films, artifacts from World War II including a viewing of a surviving Torah and more. Tai-Lauria has also reached out to several other local organizations that welcomed the opportunity to be community partners on this initiative.
The school district plans are coming together with the district’s teachers being invited to participate in this undertaking. With many grades teaching the Holocaust as a regular part of the curriculum, there will be complementing programs, classes and book recommendations coordinated with Wilton Library staff and WPS faculty. The high school’s upper grades will be reading the “Wilton Reads” selection.
The library’s efforts will kick off with free copies of The Tattooist of Auschwitz being given away courtesy of Fairfield County Bank. Books will be given out on Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 10-11 a.m.; books will be held in reserve for an evening giveaway on the same date, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. all while supplies last.
The author will visit Wilton Library for the culmination of the library’s and schools’ programming on Thursday, April 11, from 7-8:30 p.m.. As is the custom with Wilton Reads authors, Morris will be recognized by the library with the Grodin Family Fine Writers Award during her appearance.
This is the library’s 13th Wilton Reads community reading selection. The program originated in 2001 with the reading of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Media sponsors for Wilton Reads are Wilton Magazine and GOOD Morning Wilton.
Wilton Library is located at 137 Old Ridgefield Rd.; library hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. For information and directions, visit the library website or call 203.762.6334.