It’s never too early: Young Readers program aims to engage Chautauqua’s youth with weekly themes


Exploring the world and collecting new and exciting experiences is one of the best parts of being a child or a young adult, but with the world on lockdown, many young people around the world find themselves confined to a single space, unable to venture out into the great unknown — at least physically.

This is where reading comes in. 

At a time when so many traditional avenues of discovery are stifled, books are a way to hold an entire universe in one hand, reading a way to live a hundred lives from the comfort (or confinement) of home. This is something that the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle understands, and the CLSC Young Readers program is designed to open the doors of literary exploration for Chautauqua’s youth. 

CLSC Young Readers creates a forum for discussion and discovery through a program — this year exclusively online — that aims to explore the Chautauqua weekly themes through reading. Each Friday, the “YR Further Reading list”, which previews the selected book for the coming week is posted on the CHQ Clubhouse social media accounts. On Tuesday, the YR Discussion prompts are posted, followed by the Creative Activity on Wednesday. 

The books are chosen by Manager of Community Education Karen Schiavone, each one corresponding to the weekly theme. 

Week One’s theme was “Climate Change: Prioritizing Our Global and Local Response,” and the selected book was Cast Away: Poems for Our Time,by Naomi Shihab Nye, a collection of poems that discuss the planet and the connections each person has to it. Week Two was themed “Forces Unseen: What Shapes Our Daily Lives,” and the featured book was Scary Stories for Young Foxes, by Christian McKay Heidicker, a collection of thrilling middle-grade adventure stories. 

Week Three, themed “Art and Democracy,” was accompanied by the selection of the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, a literary classic following four young women experiencing life in New England during the Civil War. Currently, Week Four is featuring Cog by Greg Van Eekhout. The story, about robots and a boy built to learn, goes hand-in-hand with the week’s theme: “The Ethics of Tech: Scientific, Corporate and Personal Responsibility.” 

“It is a goal of ours to select books that kids may not have yet been exposed to through school or home, with the idea that they’ll be able to discuss them with their families, especially since their adult family members may be reading CLSC selections that also relate to the Chautauqua weekly themes,” Schiavone said. 

In most cases, the books chosen are geared toward children ages 9 to 14, though Schiavone said there are often children participating who are older or younger. However, “sometimes there is a book that is so compelling that we feel must be on the list that may fall outside that typical age range,” Schiavone said.

The CLSC Young Readers program was moved online along with the rest of Chautauqua’s programming for the 2020 season, which has challenged the traditional format of the program, but has also opened the program to a wider audience — something that Schiavone believes is important, especially in the current global and social climate. 

In any year, reading is so important for so many reasons, particularly during the summer when learning loss is a risk,” Schiavone said. “This year, I think it’s even more important for youth to engage this way, as reading is an opportunity to get away from the screen and also to have a chance to talk to family and other youth online about current events as they relate to our book selections.”

Schiavone looks forward to the discovery fostered by reading, and is glad to be able to provide Chautauqua’s youth with the chance to delve deeper into the literary side of Chautauqua. 

“We’ve always said that Chautauqua is a community of readers, and it’s never too early to engage kids as well,” Schiavone said.

Tags : Cast Away: Poems for Our TimeChautauqua Literary and Scientific CircleCHQ ClubhouseClimate Change: Prioritizing Our Global and Local ResponseCLSCCLSC Young ReadersLittle WomenScary Stories for Young Foxes

The author Maggie Angevine

For her first season with The Chautauquan Daily, reporter Maggie Angevine will be covering the theater, youth programs and recreation at Chautauqua. Maggie, hailing from Virginia, is a rising junior at Miami University in Ohio, studying journalism, political science and French. When she isn’t writing for The Miami Student newspaper, Maggie can be found somewhere outside — hiking, camping, climbing or simply exploring.