Community Read tackles Autism – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Community Read tackles Autism

Want to be engaged in meaningful discussions with members from all parts of the Geneva community? Then pick up a copy of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” by Mark Haddon and join other members of the Geneva community for the 2nd Annual Community Read.

“I hope the Community Read coupled with the speakers, movies and discussions will raise awareness about autism in the Geneva community,” says AmeriCorps VISTA member Kelsey Lagana ’10, who has been coordinating the Community Read events.

Community members have been the driving force in this year’s Community Read. More than 600 community members and high school students participated in the selection of the book through a voting campaign.

The book, which  received the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best First Book, is narrated from the perspective of Christopher Boone, a mathematically-gifted teenager with autism who discovers the dead body of Wellington, his neighbor’s poodle. Christopher is arrested after a misunderstanding with the police, and he vows to solve the mystery of Wellington’s death.

The book will be read by students at Geneva High School. In addition, students at Geneva Middle School will be reading “Rules,” by Cynthia Lord and students at the elementary schools will be reading “My Brother Charlie,” by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. Both books were selected to connect to the topic of Autism.

The Community Read events kick-off on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 12:30 p.m. at the Geneva High School Library where Jason “J-Mac” McElwain, author of the book “Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph and Growing-Up Autistic,” and his father, David, will speak about life with autism. At 6:30 p.m. they will host a second event in the Geneva High School Auditorium that will be open to the public. Prior to the evening discussion, there will be a reception and book signing from 6 – 6:30 p.m. Both discussions will include a panel of local experts who will be on hand for a question and answer session about autism spectrum disorders. 

Saturday, Feb. 26 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., the College Store will host “Books N Brunch” where “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” will be sold at 30 percent off.    

In conjunction with the Community Read, the Smith Opera House will host a film series featuring “Snow Cake,” a drama about the relationship between an autistic women and a man who is traumatized after a fatal car accident, on Thursday, March 3 at 7 p.m. and “Normal People Scare Me,” a documentary about living with autism, on Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m.  

On Friday, April 1, Geneva City Schools will sponsor a “Walk for Autism” from 2:30 – 4 p.m. that will start at North Street School and end at the Geneva Community Center. In addition, the Geneva City Schools will host “Pennies for Autism” from March 1 – April 1 and will have collection jars in all the schools’ main offices and libraries.

Throughout the month of March, the Geneva Public Library will host community conversations over coffee about autism spectrum disorders at the Geneva High School Library from 7:45- 8:45 a.m. The dates and topics are as follows: March 1 – Medical Aspects of Autism; March 8- Autism and the Family; March 15- Education and Best Practice; March 22 – A book discussion about “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”; March 29 – Agency Fair.

Concluding the events will be a talk hosted by HWS by award-winning journalist John Hockenberry, as part of the President’s Forum Series and the Colleges’ Festival for Disability in the Arts. The talk will be held on Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. on the Colleges’ campus. For more information, visit

The Community Read is sponsored by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Geneva Public Library, Ontario ARC, Geneva City Schools, and Success for Geneva’s Children.

In the photo above Khuram Hussain, assistant professor of education at HWS, features the Community Read book.