Adult Community Reads Resources

Community-Wide Reading Programs — at the state, city, and local levels—work to promote literacy while engaging an entire community in a common reading experience.

Below you will find tips for librarians, library staff, community leaders, and program directors who will be involved in the creation and implementation of a community-wide read. We hope these tips will be helpful for those experienced in hosting events such as these, as well as for those starting a program for the very first time.

If you cannot find an answer to your questions on this page, please email us at commonreads@penguinrandomhouse.com.

 

 

 

Tips for Creating a Successful Community-Wide Reading Program

What would you like to accomplish with your program? Promote reading? Foster literacy? Get your community talking?


Define an audience for your program.


Identify the needs and interests for your audience, create plans, and predict the impact that your program will have on your community.

Assemble a Planning Committee: Put together a group dedicated to launching the program, including librarians, library staff, community leaders, local school faculty, and possibly students and parents as well.


Create a Timeline: Think about starting your community-wide planning process at least 6 months in advance of your event.


Determine Your Budget: Look to municipal organizations, area businesses and corporations, local bookstores, and community groups for help in funding your program. Keep in mind that organizations may be willing to donate goods and services.

Who Decides: Every community handles the book selection process a bit differently. Many communities create a selection committee or advisory committee. Some libraries consult internally and select a book. Still others take suggestions from the public. Decide what will work best for your community.


What Kind of Book: There are many wonderful books for community-wide reading programs, but selecting the right book for your community can be tricky. Here are a few things to keep in mind throughout your selection process:

  • What is the goal of your program? Will discussing the book help promote those goals?
  • Is the book accessible? Will a variety of community members of different reading levels and with different interests be able to engage with the book?
  • Does the book cover compelling issues and/or discussable themes?
  • Does the book have regional significance?
  • Consider the book’s available formats. Is the book readily available in paperback, audio, large print, and in translation, allowing you to reach the widest possible audience?
  • Is there a young adult edition of the book available to help engage that audience? Or is there a book that covers similar themes that can be used in a simultaneous community-wide read for younger audiences?”
  • Before selecting a book, decide how important it is to have the author come to speak to your community. If it is important, you will need to consider author speaking fees and availability before selecting your title. (See more in our “Host an Author” section.)

Seek out partnerships with local bookstores, museums, theaters, universities, and other community organizations to plan for rich and diverse programming surrounding your community read.


Book Discussions: Work with the library, library branches, local bookstores, community centers, and local schools and universities to host book discussion groups. Plan to have discussion leaders at each event to help guide the conversation and encourage participation.


Scholarly Lectures: Schedule lectures or panel discussions with professionals and experts on the topics covered by the book.


Arts & Music Programs: Consider working with a museum to launch an exhibit related to your community read. Similarly, think about working with theaters to host screenings of films on a similar topic or genre, or concerts presenting music from the time period.


Author Program: Many community-wide reading programs culminate with a visit from the author. (See more in our “Host an Author” section.)

Hosting the author of your book can be a thrilling culmination to your community-wide read.


Planning for an Author Appearance:

  • Budget: Most author appearances will require a speaking fee in addition to travel, meals, and lodging, so it is best to secure funding for an author event early in your planning process.

 

  • Author Availability: Reach out to an author’s publisher or speakers’ bureau early on to see if an author is available and willing to speak at your event.

 

  • Decide what kinds of programs would you like the author to take part in. Some of the most successful author visits allow the author and audience to participate in a variety of events. You might invite an author to participate in one, or many, of the following:
    • A public lecture or interview
    • Classroom visits at local schools
    • Intimate receptions with community VIPs

Inviting an Author: In most cases your best first step for inviting an author to speak at your event is to reach out to the author’s current publisher. Craft a detailed proposal for your event, including:

  • Date(s), Time(s), Location(s)
  • Format of Event(s)
  • Anticipated Audience Size(s)
  • Details About Book Sales & Signing at the Event(s)
  • Your Budget to Handle Honorarium, Travel, Lodging, Expenses
  • Details About the Success of Similar Events You Have Hosted in the Past

Designate an Author Liaison: Having one person in charge of communicating with the publisher, speaking agency, and the author to plan out details, answer questions will greatly streamline the process of securing an author for your event. In addition, having one person as the designated author handler on the day(s) of your event will help the author feel at ease.


Speakers Bureaus: Some authors work exclusively with speakers’ bureaus and agencies. An event with one of these authors will require an honorarium in addition to travel, lodging, and meal expenses. Our in-house Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau is dedicated to helping make your author visit as smooth and successful as possible.

You can visit the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau site at: prhspeakers.com

Once you have selected your book you will need to get the word out to a wide audience. Below are a few suggestions on how to do just that.


Public Relations: Create a communications team to help draft press releases about your program and pitch the story to local media outlets. In addition, work with local media to promote PSAs about your program. Ask local community leaders and/or celebrities to help promote.


Announcement or Unveiling Ceremony: Consider selecting a date when the mayor or another community leader will announce your community-wide read selection. Invite local media and community members to attend. Plan a launch party to celebrate the occasion.


Online and Digital Outreach: Create a website or landing page with all of the details about your program—including information about the book, discussion guides, a calendar of events, and more. Promote your events through the library, school, and other enewsletters and social media platforms.


Flyers, Posters, and More: Hang posters and distribute flyers with your event information at the library, schools, and local businesses and municipal buildings. Distribute buttons, bookmarks, a calendar of events, and other promotional items at the library, schools, and other community meetings.


Advertising: Work with local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations to place paid ads for your program. Ask if they would be willing to offer a discounted rate for a non-profit organization.


Share an Audio Clip: We offer sounds clips for all our titles. Every clip can be downloaded (by clicking the down arrow) on www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com or found on Sound Cloud where it can easily be embedded on your website or shared on social media to grow excitement for a title and allow your community to jump right in.


VIP Invitations: Reach out personally through phone calls or printed invitations to invite key individuals from your community to attend your events.

Books for Sale or the Library Collection: For all common reading selections, Penguin Random House will assist you in placing your order, whether through your preferred wholesaler, bookstore, online retailer, or our customer service department.


Customized Books: Our Premium Sales Department can help process any requests for a customized edition of your selected book. These may include books with a special seal on the cover, or those that contain a letter from a community leader. (Please note that these books may not be used for resale.)

 

For more information, contact us at: commonreads@penguinrandomhouse.com

Document your event with photos and video coverage. With permission, share these with local media outlets, on social media, and with the author and publisher.


Send a wrap up report to the publisher about the success of your event, including audience sizes, participation numbers, book sales, photos, videos, and more.


Meet with your selection committee and community partners to evaluate whether or not you met your program goals.

You can also find a wonderful guide to planning a community-wide read on the ALA website.