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Month-Long Hardin Park’s Family Reading Project Begins With Speech From Holocaust Survivor

Hardin Park Media Coordinators Candice Trexler and Amy Hiatt address a crowd of more than 140 in the school’s library.

More than 140 students, parents and community members gathered last week at Hardin Park to mark the kickoff of the school’s Family Reading Project — a month long event that provides families of middle school students with a book and challenges them to read it together and to experience the work as a family.

Spearheaded by Hardin Park Media Coordinators Candice Trexler and Amy Hiatt, the Family Reading Project is a partnership with Appalachian State University’s Children’s Literature Symposium. This year, the event tasked families to read “Prisoner B-3087” a novel by Allen Gratz. At the end of the month, the author will visit the school to meet with parents and students who’ve read his book during the event.

This year’s book is a piece of historical fiction based on the experiences of Holocaust survivor Jack Gruener during the Nazi occupation of Poland during the Second World War. Gruener survived incarceration at 10 different concentration camps over the course of the conflict.

To supplement the book, Hardin Park’s Family Reading Project begins with a kickoff event that works to lend context and background information to the reading material. This year, the event played host to three speakers: Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz, who taught German history and a Holocaust symposium at App State during his tenure there; Zohara Boyd, a Polish Holocaust survivor and co-founder of ASU’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies; and Peter Petschauer, a German-born App State professor whose father served in the SS during the war.

Hardin Park’s Library also displayed two exhibits from the Regional North Carolina Council on the Holocaust.

Trexler said the Family Reading Event gave middle school students and their parents the important opportunity to read together again — something they might do less as a child progresses through school.

“We ask that families taking part don’t read the book alone,” Trexler said. “The real joy is to read the book together — to talk, discuss, cry, whatever it brings out. When we’ve finished the book, so many people say, ‘I loved reading with my Mom again,’ or, ‘it brought me back to their childhood to read together again.’ The work of putting everything together is so worth it – to see those families connect and to see the impact that reading together has on them.”

The Hardin Park Family Reading Event will wrap up Oct. 26 with a visit from Gratz.

Zohara Boyd, a Polish Holocaust survivor and co-founder of ASU’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies shares her experience.