The Washtenaw Reads program is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book. Participating libraries include Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline, and Ypsilanti.
History of Washtenaw Reads
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.
The following year, the Reads program became known as Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads and expanded to include Ypsilanti and was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries and 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.
In 2016, the program was renamed Washtenaw Reads and expanded to include the communities and libraries of Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township and Saline.
Prior to 2014, each year's read had a theme, which can be viewed on the Past Reads page. Previous themes have included such subjects as: civil rights, science, citizenship and evolution.
Books chosen for the Reads should meet the following criteria:
- 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 be by a living author.
- Its treatment of issues should encourage readers to discuss the issues further with others, at home, work, reading clubs, and community events.
- Ideally, the subject should lead to constructive dialogues across our diverse communities.
During the summer the Book Screening Committee made up of individuals selected as representative of various civic constituencies read many titles reflecting the year’s theme. For the 2022 Read, three finalists were included in a public vote with the winning title announced sometime in the fall.