Intergenerational Book Event Brings Seniors & Students Together

J.D. O’Gara
Students from Franklin High School and members of the Franklin Senior Center began the event with a game of icebreaker bingo.
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

On March 6th, members of the Franklin Senior Center went back to high school to join Franklin High School students for an Intergenerational Book Club. The event, the brainchild of FHS librarian Tricia London, was funded by a grant from the Franklin Education Foundation ( Participants, who began the event with an icebreaker bingo game, discussed the book You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins, after a question and answer Skype session with the author. The event included a luncheon provided by The Curry House, in Franklin.
“I did an event a number of years ago in Westwood, and it was well received,” says London, who was a part-time reference librarian and a teen librarian at Westwood Public Library before she was came to Franklin High. “They say that books can be mirrors and windows. With mirror books, people see reflections of their identities and experiences – I’ve been trying this year to broaden our fiction collection to include more diverse books and I’m happy that a few of the students found a mirror in the book we chose – window books give readers a glimpse into the world of others. I’ll never be a fifteen-year-old girl immigrating from India, but by reading this book I can experience a little of what she was feeling when she came to a new place,” says London, who partnered with Caleigh Keating, of the Franklin Public Library, to establish a rapport with some of the Franklin teens she didn’t know well, yet. The two contacted Karen Alves, of the Franklin Senior Center, and all discussed the application for FEF grant funds.
In total, about 25 people attended the event. Students of all grades in the high school were represented.
Author Mitali Perkins conversed with the crowd, discussing how much of her life was inspiration for the book, which discussed generations of family. Perkins, who speaks Bengali, pointed out the differences in language and culture in India, where 22 different tongues are spoken. She also touched upon issues of shadism within Indian cultures, and the idea of arranged marriage, common in India, but not in the United States. One participant, a member of the Franklin Senior Center group, who originally came from India, talked about her own arranged marriage.
“That’s not something many of our students have experienced,” says London. “I loved the idea of mixing generations for this event, and the book we chose actually focused on three generations of women, so it was perfect.”
London says an online survey has provided good feedback from both older and younger participants in the program.
Some expressed that the book felt appropriate for the group.
“The book was a good choice because of the multiple generations,” wrote one respondent, with another adding, “The book was perfect for discussion.”
All respondents pointed to the discussions their groups had about the book as being a positive outcome of the event. One responded, “I really loved this arrangement, especially the discussions that we had. I really loved the choice of literature because it directly related to my life. More importantly the book brings to attention the many struggles that immigrants and minorities face.” Another added that the event would have worked well even without the Skype conversation and food. “It’s the people who make the discussion work,” they wrote.