Chances are having one's nose in a book may actually open the lines of communication with incoming Kansas State University freshmen.
Beginning in fall 2010, K-State will introduce a new reading program, the Kansas State Book Network, or KSBN, as part of the first-year experience.
By reading the same book, K-State faculty, staff and students will have something intellectual to discuss with the incoming freshmen, said Stephen Kiefer, co-chair of the KSBN committee, director of the University Honors Program and professor of psychology at K-State.
"It also sends the right academic message that the first thing you're asked to do at college is read a book and critically think about it," Kiefer said. "It conveys the idea that in college, you're going to read, going to learn and going to talk to others about it."
The selected novel is a New York Times best-seller, "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. Collins was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 people to most affect the world. "The Hunger Games" has been described as a modern version of "Brave New World," in which a futuristic society is enthralled with a brutal reality television show. Each year a lottery selects representatives from each region of the nation to compete in a televised fight-to-the-death known as the Hunger Games.
"Typically, for reading programs, the book tends to be inspiring nonfiction,” said Greg Eiselein, professor of English and co-director of K-State First, the new K-State first-year experience program. "'The Hunger Games' is exciting, cutting-edge fiction – a rather innovative choice. It's a dystopian novel that raises a lot of thought-provoking issues about contemporary society."
"I am an avid reader and when I was told the first-year experience program committee was considering a common book for all to read, I was excited," said April Mason, K-State provost and senior vice president. "I have distributed 'The Hunger Games' to all of my provost staff members and the deans."
Several K-State instructors are already planning to incorporate the book within their curriculum, including Kevin Blake, professor of geography. Since the book involves geography and how power operates through different regions, Blake saw it as a perfect fit into his curriculum, Eiselein said.
Along with campus discussion and visiting speakers, a campuswide multiplayer game will be offered in the fall revolving around "The Hunger Games."
While K-State's reading program is one of the first offered by a Board of Regents institution in Kansas, Eiselein said similar reading programs are part of the first-year experience at many universities. What is new is the way in which the K-State Book Network will approach the various aspects of the reading program, including the game, philanthropic activities and discussions and lectures related to the novel's themes, he said.
"The game, the events and discussions inside and outside of classes will have everyone talking about the book as they might 'Avatar' or 'Harry Potter,'" Eiselein said. "I think reading and activities are a way for people to interact and get to know each other."All freshmen will receive a copy of "The Hunger Games" at their campus orientation visit in June. Copies for current K-Staters will be available at Varney's Book Store in Aggieville and the K-State Student Union Bookstore.