Name announced for WCU’s new community reading program

“Whee Turn the Page” is the name of a new community reading program being developed by students in Western Carolina University’s Honors College.

Honors students Leah Rhodes and Margaret Pearce made that announcement as several hundred people gathered Thursday, Sept. 20, for the program’s kickoff event in the multipurpose room of Blue Ridge Hall.

WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher suggested to Honors College Dean Brian Railsback in the summer of 2011 that the college consider beginning a reading program that would be based on a list of recommended books developed by the college’s students. Railsback said 20 honors students are currently involved in the project and diving into issues such as a website, community outreach and marketing. He said the students are looking to formally organize and develop an action plan by mid-October.

Rhodes and Pearce said the program might involve activities such a flash reading sessions on campus and a book exchange.

Speaking to the audience at the kickoff event, Belcher said he loves reading for pleasure and is involved in a novel or book of poetry or short stories at all times. Reading opens up opportunities for individuals “to explore new ideas, new concepts, new cultures and new perspectives,” he said. “I think that’s incredibly enriching, and it’s something that you students can carry with you for the rest of your lives.

“I also know, absolutely, that there is a correlation between good reading and good writing,” Belcher said. “There are no good writers who are not good readers, and both are critical to your personal and professional successes.”

The event concluded with Ron Rash, WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, reading a work from his new short story collection, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” which will be released by Ecco/Harper Collins in March.

Rash said the community reading initiative is important to him personally and he agrees with Belcher’s sentiments. “I’ve never known a good writer who is not a voracious reader,” Rash said.

For more information about the reading program, contact Brian Railsback at 828-227-2101.