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China and America: Bridging Two Worlds

Ann Arbor Reads 2008: China and America: Bridging Two Worlds The Eighth Promise : An American Son's Tribute to his Toisanese mother / by William Poy Lee

Statement of Purpose

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue thorough the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book.


Launched in 2003 by the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, the Reads project was fashioned after a civic reads program designed by the Seattle Public Library. The book chosen for the inaugural Reads was “Lincoln’s DNA,” by .Phillip R. Reilly. The Ann Arbor District Library was a major partner in this effort along with other area organizations. In subsequent years, the Reads Program has been co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries and is supported by interested civic groups, the University of Michigan School of LS &A, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Public Schools, local bookstores, Eastern Michigan University Libraries and Washtenaw Community College.

Reads Theme

The theme that informs the selection of potential reads titles often follows the broad topic chosen for the University of Michigan’s LS&A School for its annual “theme semester.” Previous themes have included a review of civil rights in the United States in celebration of the anniversary of Brown v Board of Education; “Revolutions in Science,” a discussion of evolution and the scientific method and “We the People...” how we define citizenship.

Book Selection

Books chosen for the Reads should meet the following criteria: Readability:

  • The writing should be engaging and thought-provoking
  • The subjects discussed should be accessible to readers throughout the community, high-school age and above
  • The length, price and availability of the book should be suited to involvement by the general public


  • The book should explore and develop an understanding of the theme of the Read
  • Its treatment of issues should encourage readers to discuss the subjects further with others, at home, work, reading clubs and community events.
  • Ideally, the exploration of these concerns should lead to constructive dialogues across the many boundaries that presently separate members of our community from each other, whether by race, gender, age, residence, occupation, or other affiliation.

Process: Selecting the final book for the Reads is a two-pronged process. During the summer the Book Screening Committee made up of individuals selected as representative of various civic constituencies read approximately thirty titles of fiction and non-fiction that reflect the year’s theme. In the fall, the Book Selection Committee reviews the three titles suggested by the Screening Committee and makes a final recommendation of the Reads book for the coming year.