Every year on April 23–Shakespeare’s birthday–folks nationwide donate books to people in their communities for the World Book Night (WBN) celebration, and this year in Bowling Green, one of the WKU English department’s own undergraduate students took center stage for the event.
Joshua Johnston, a brand new WKU English alumni joined Kristie Lowry, Outreach Coordinator for WKU Libraries, at the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center (WRJDC) for the World Book Night Celebration. Ms. Lowry thought “just taking the books to the center and dropping them off with a few kind words didn’t seem like enough. With a loose idea for a poetry workshop in mind, I reached out to the English Department at [WKU], and [Dr. Molly McCaffrey] recommended [Joshua Johnston].”
Ms. Lowry gave each student a copy of 100 Best-Loved Poems, then Joshua led the poetry workshop, where many of the students surprised and humbled them with their ability to relate to the poems. Many of them even had a knack for creating their own poetry! Ms. Lowry had this to say about Joshua after WBN had come to a close:
“That young man—barely older than the kids he was teaching—spent [two hours] sharing poetry and the written word in a way that left me aching to be able to write well enough to do his work justice.
He did an amazing job! Actually, ‘amazing’ doesn’t begin to describe it. He was phenomenal. I hope to do more work with the kids at the center, and I’d love to partner with students or faculty in the English Department for that whenever possible.”
Joshua had this to say about his experience at WRJDC:
“I initially worried that there wouldn’t be adequate time to establish an atmosphere in which students felt comfortable enough to engage in the type of dialogue that is so crucial to successful writing workshops, but I quickly discovered that my fears were unfounded. By the end of each class, most of the students were not only intently crafting poems, but enthusiastically sharing their works-in-progress with the class and drawing further inspiration from the positive feedback that ensued. Their talent and courage was a true joy to witness, as well as a vivid reminder of why I have so much faith in the field of creative writing.”
Joshua obviously left a lasting impression on the students at the WRJDC, Ms. Lowry, and our community–not by simply handing these students books–he provided a great experience they will remember forever because he opened their minds to poetry and creative writing. We’re glad to share Joshua’s successes as a WKU English undergrad, and look forward to hearing more about his future achievements in the Indiana University MFA program this fall!
Check out the World Book Night website to learn more about how you can make a difference in people’s lives by inspiring them to love reading, just as Joshua did for the students at WRJDC.