SIP 12.4 Inspire Lifelong Learning Using 1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Sabrina and Corina book cover.Faculty members want to promote ideals such as curiosity, lifelong learning and open-mindedness. Sometimes, though, the textbooks we choose seem to have an almost-opposite goal: They may be narrowly focused, ruthlessly structured and blinkered in their approach. Of course, these textbooks serve their purpose and often serve it well –they provide up-to-date expertise using all the best instructional design and pedagogical devices. However, chances are good that once they graduate, our students won’t be seeking out books whose chapters begin with “Learning Objectives” and end with “Concept Summary” and “Review Questions.” Engaging students in reading popular or “trade” books is a great way to bridge classroom-based, academic learning with the kind of unfettered explorations that are the mark of ongoing learning.

Take a SIP of this: Beyond the textbook: using book clubs to engage students in lifelong learning

Broadening students’ horizons with readings that go beyond the textbook is a great way to spark lasting interest in the power of literature to connect across different content areas. Here, “literature” doesn’t necessarily mean high-minded and enduring artistic works, but it does mean books that aren’t neatly divided into 16 chapters to represent the 16 weeks of a semester. It means books that take readers afield, that integrate ideas from different cultures, themes and disciplines.

We don’t have to look far to see that reading and discussing books with others is a wildly popular way to foster social connections, to share different perspectives and to generate passion for exploration of different topics and stories. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Noname have generated broad national participation in book clubs, and local community book groups are thriving even in these pandemic times.

Shared intellectual experiences such as book clubs can increase student retention and engagement (Kuh, 2008), moving students from the circumscribed areas of study demanded by specific coursework into books whose content transcends any course or discipline and into communities of diverse readers. And in these pandemic times, when people might have a bit more time to read, the internet provides a space for book discussions to continue in spite of quarantines and lockdowns.

Here at Metropolitan State University of Denver, faculty, staff and students are invited each year to participate in 1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform, a common reading program built on the idea that we can be transformed – and can, perhaps, transform our communities – by what we read and how we engage with others. This year’s 1B/1P/2T selection is “Sabrina & Corina” (Penguin Random House, 2019), a book of short stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, an MSU Denver alumna. Fajardo-Anstine – an English major and Chicano/a Studies minor who graduated in 2009 – sets her stories generally in the American West, more specifically in Denver and sometimes even on the Auraria Campus. Her stories weave in topics and themes such as homelessness, abortion, elder care, incarceration, interpersonal violence, health disparities, missing persons, neighborhood crime, parenting and family, mental health, and neighborhood change/gentrification. The writing rings with authenticity. In describing the book, author Julia Alvarez said, “(This) work will easily find a place, not just in Latinx literature but in American literature and beyond.”

While it may be too late to integrate “Sabrina & Corina” into this semester’s syllabus, it’s definitely not too late to encourage students to attend campuswide virtual book discussions (Sept. 24 and Oct. 7) and a virtual keynote address by Fajardo-Anstine on Oct. 14. There also may be books available, provided by the 1B/1P/2T program, for use in the spring semester. For more information about 1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform and the events listed here, visit

1 Book/1 Project/2 Transform isn’t the only campus book club. More than 60 health scholars from 10 disciplines are reading “What the Eyes Don’t See,” a riveting account of lead poisoning, systemic racism and the water crisis of Flint, Michigan, told by pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D. Another book club about environmental justice will start soon and is open to everyone: The Auraria Sustainable Campus Program is hosting a series of virtual discussions of the book “Clean & White: A History of Environmental Racism in the U.S.,” by Carl Zimring. For information about that book club, go to Your students (and you) might also like to participate in a book club about the classic graphic novel “The Watchmen,” sponsored by the Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy.

Still thirsty?  Take a SIP of this: 

Barack, L. (2018). Book clubs can help comprehension blossom among students.

Ferguson, M. (2006). Creating common ground: Common reading and the first year of college.

Recent research on common reading programs in higher education:

Author Kelly Corrigan in a TED Talk called More Reading

Can a book club fight racism?

The therapeutic value of books during the pandemic

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