Impressive reading initiative from the University of Canberra

How proud am I? Not that I had anything to do with it, but the University of Canberra, in my city, has launched an inspiring initiative which it calls the UC Book Project. This is a project whereby every student (yes every student) who commences a course (yes any course) at the University of Canberra in 2013 will be given the same book, in print or electronic form, and will be required (yes required) to read it!

The aim of the project is, according to the University’s website, “to enhance the first-year experience of students, increase their knowledge of contemporary and global issues, and foster a sense of community among students”.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? I hadn’t, but apparently, according to the project’s major proponent Professor Nick Klomp*, many universities around the world have a “freshman or common reading program”. How can a university manage to ensure that every student in every course read one particular book? Well, the website says that:

Different courses will incorporate the concepts and content of the book in different ways, and there are several activities planned for the year for which students will need to have read the book.

The University will also encourage students to engage in an online discussion about the book. Anyone will be able to read the discussion but only staff and students will be able to post comments. Fair enough.

Ok, so what’s the project’s inaugural book? Just wait, it’s coming, but first I want to tell you that it was selected by a panel comprising Deputy Vice Chancellor Nick Klomp, Professor of Arts and Humanities Jen Webb, Director-General of the National Library of Australia Anne-Marie Schirtlich, Patron of the National Year of Reading William McInnes, and local award-winning author (whom I’ve reviewed twice in this blog) Nigel Featherstone. What fun they must have had trying to choose one book!

Anyhow, enough rabbiting on. It’s time to tell you the book: Craig Silvey‘s Jasper Jones. This Western Australian novel made quite a splash when it was published in 2009 and is, I think, a great fit for the purpose. It’s readable and not too long; it has a good plot that draws you along, and some wonderful dialogue; it’s a coming-of-age novel but is not specifically young adult; and, without it or me being crass, it ticks some boxes relating to multicultural and indigenous Australia. In a word, it’s real in a way that should appeal to a wide range of students. I read and reviewed Jasper Jones here (early in my blogging career).

Congratulations to the University of Canberra for a truly wonderful initiative and many thanks to Nigel Featherstone for bringing it to my attention. I can’t believe how hard Nigel works for literature in the ACT region (and Australia) while still managing to write himself. I dips me lid to ‘im!

* And, readers, would you believe that Professor Klomp is a scientist!? I dips me lid to ‘im too!