Literature (Virtually) Brings People Together, Despite Pandemic
While gathering an isolated community together in the time of COVID-19 may seem nearly impossible, one organization has created a safe space for its clients to push togetherness to the forefront of their daily lives.
Books@Work, a nonprofit organization, has worked tirelessly to bring both companies and communities together through literature. The participants for these meetings come from 26 states across America, with 30 university professors selected to facilitate these meetings. The organization and its Kent State connection were recently featured in a WEWS-TV (Cleveland) story: https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/continuing-coverage/coronavirus/book-club-helps-seniors-connect-combat-isolation-during-coronavirus-pandemic.
Alexis Baker, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of English at Kent State University at Stark, began facilitating sessions for Books@Work in 2016 while earning her degree in English from Kent State University.
“Working with diverse, dynamic individuals would have to be my favorite part of being a facilitator. I just love hearing how people use their own experiences to relate to the literature,” Baker said. “That is extremely powerful to me.”
Books@Work encourages a sense of community and equality among individuals during each session, unlike the hierarchical divide often found in the workplace.
Baker made note of the fact that there can be many challenges when facilitating virtually. These challenges include everything from typical technology issues to navigating how to appropriately discuss controversial topics with group members who may be unfamiliar with one another.
Despite these challenges, Baker strongly suggests Books@Work to those feeling isolated during COVID.
“Without a doubt, books connect people,” Baker said. “Literature connects people. People connect people. Just hearing somebody else’s voice can make all the difference.”
For more information on Kent State Stark, visit: https://www.kent.edu/stark