Kelleys Islanders have saved the program director of The Big Read, David Kipen, from digesting some food for thought — quite literally.
All 131 people on the island fulfilled a long-time dream of Kipen by becoming the first small community to have 100 percent participation in reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Kipen told islanders when they took on the challenge that he would eat a copy of the book if they didn’t reach their goal.
On his blog, Kipen wrote, “...if The Big Read can co-opt peer pressure into working for literature instead of, as so often, against it — then that’s worth a little indigestion.”
Kipen was with The Big Read mobile, which travels the country promoting the reading program, and did not return calls Thursday afternoon.
To celebrate the accomplishment, Kelleys Island School will host a party a 3:30 p.m. Thursday when the islanders are invited to take a group picture with the book.
Kipen plans to ferry The Big Read mobile to Kelleys Island for the event. Sandusky Library assistant director Terri Estel said she is thrilled, but not surprised, by the results.
“When we nominated them, we knew they would rise to the occasion because they were such a special community,” Estel said.
“We knew all along they would meet the challenge.”
The Sandusky Library nominated Kelleys Island for the all-community reading challenge last summer at The Big Read orientation for Erie County Reads.
Estel said islanders were quick to get on board with the project. Each received his or her own copy of the book with the help of a locally-matched grant from The Big Read.
Even young readers were able to participate. Elaine Lickselt, head library volunteer on the island, read “Tea for Ruby” to children too small to read the Harper Lee classic.
Estel said between word of mouth and a campaign to sign people up at the Island Market, everyone on the island committed to reading the book.
She said she has no idea if the challenge will ever be repeated.