Runner Reader Program partners with annual community read

House on Mango Street CoverAll of Kern County is invited to join the 10th anniversary community read organized by One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern. The book, "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros, is the coming-of-age story of a Latina girl named Esperanza whose family home in a poor Chicago neighborhood is a source of both hate and pride for her.

The read coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month and the book's themes carry a strong connection to Bakersfield and Kern County. Written in a series of short vignettes and published in 1984, "The House on Mango Street" has been taught in middle schools, high schools and college classrooms for years. The story resonates across cultures and generations, as the young protagonist yearns for a better life yet experiences the tug-of-war between independence and family roots. Entire families are encouraged to join in the read, with the accompanying picture book "Hairs," also by Sandra Cisneros, suggested for children.

"What most excites me about each One Book read is the invitation extended to all to think about and discuss the powerful ideas in one great book, and apply them to our lives in Kern County. This community-wide conversation helps us hurdle the geographic, economic, cultural, and racial barriers that often divide us. This year's read will once again be a tool for building a more cohesive and literate community," said Kristie Coons, coordinator of One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern.

Led by Kern County Library and CSU Bakersfield, the One Book committee has pulled in multiple community partners to present programming related to the book and National Hispanic Heritage Month. The read begins with a kickoff event on Sept. 13 at the Noriega House, followed by two months of book discussions, arts events, cultural events and more.

The read culminates with the author herself giving a free talk for the community at CSUB on Nov. 8. The author's visit is made possible through CSUB's Runner Reader Program, which is sponsored by a Title V Grant for Hispanic-Serving Institutions from the U.S. Department of Education. The Runner Reader Program incorporates a multicultural book for all freshmen on campus to read and share a common experience during their first year of college.

"Having such a common experience helps promote success and retention among first-year students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds," said Emerson Case, CSUB English Professor and First Year Experience Coordinator. "Former students have told us repeatedly that hearing and meeting a real author for the first time has been a life-changing experience."

Community members are encouraged to read the book, hold book discussions, and participate in the many events related to the read. Additional sponsors include PG&E, which donated $1,500, and Kern County Supervisor Karen Goh, whose office donated $500. All donations are being used for materials related to the read.

For more information about One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern, visit the website at

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Emerson Case
Professor of English

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(661) 654-2136