Thursday, September 6, 2018

By Brooke Larsen


Michelle Kuo

Building Community Reads continues to create a supportive, inclusive, and safe environment for everyone within the College of Education.

The Baker Teacher Leader Center and the Building Community Initiative are partnering once again with the One Community, One Book Program through the UI Center for Human Rights.

In its third year of the initiative, the College of Education has selected “Reading with Patrick – A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-changing Friendship,” by Michelle Kuo.

This year’s book is a memoir of inequality, race, and the power of literature through friendship. The author develops a deep relationship with one of her students, Patrick, whom she later learns has been jailed for a high- profile murder. Michelle finds Patrick and makes it her goal to read with him every day so that he can continue his education.

“Reading with Patrick – A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-changing Friendship” was chosen by UI Center for Human Rights Programs Coordinator and Director of Liberal Arts Beyond Bars, Kathrina Litchfield.

Litchfield, a graduate student in the College of Education’s Language, Literacy, and Culture Program, chose Kuo’s memoir because Kuo is very forthcoming in offering to assist with teaching, visiting classrooms, and doing lots of community work.

“The author makes insightful comments about the state of public education today and the crisis caused by mass incarceration,” Litchfield says. “The way that she talks about the experience is really useful to people that are concerned about the gaps in education.”

Kuo will help Litchfield co-teach a One Community One Book course at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in the Johnson County community Oakdale In Coralville, Iowa. Kuo will start teaching with Litchfield at the end of October for two weeks.

“Fundamentally, our access to education, secure employment and financial stability play into how we conceptualize the American Dream. This book is a really nice access to thinking about that, “Litchfield says.

On Friday Oct. 26, the Baker Teacher Leader Center will host Michelle Kuo for a book talk from noon to 1 p.m. in Jones Commons, N300 Lindquist Center.

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the College of Education can participate in this year’s Building Community Reads. Copies of the book are available for pick up at the front counter of the Baker Teacher Leader Center now until there are no books left.

Will Coghill-Behrends, co-chair of the Building Community Reads Initiative and director of the Baker Teacher Leader Center, says shared readings help people enter into conversations about some of the most challenging issues of our time.

“While opinions and ideas may diverge, the shared perspectives offered by a single book gives us a starting point to consider topics and ideas that are often difficult to discuss,” Behrends says. We hope projects like this help others connect, share ideas, thoughts, emotions, and imagine a space where we can engage in peaceful dialogue with the shared interest of remaining in community with one another.

Visit Building Community Initiative for more information about Building Community Reads, or contact co-chairs Will Coghill-Behrends (, 319-335-5349) or Sherry Watt (, 319-335-5305).