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Reflecting on the Roberts Reads Event with Peter Knapp

 P Knapp


Q & A with Peter Knapp, retired Professor of Education.

 Q: What is the goal of the Roberts Reads program?

The goals of the Roberts Reads program are several. One is to encourage people to read outside their "comfort zone". Another is to help bond students and faculty in a common experience of reading, reflecting and discussing important ideas across various disciplines. To help them see connections and to help build community.  Part of a Christian liberal arts education involves seeing such connections and learning how to converse about important ideas in a civil and coherent manner. Conversations across the curriculum and across campus help facilitate such learning. Doing that in the context of a community can be both enlightening and liberating.

Q: Why did you endow the program in honor of your mother?

My wife, Leslie, and I wanted to honor my mother, Gene Webster Knapp (class of '44). She loves to read and helped instill that same love in me early on. Leslie, an elementary teacher who spent much of her career in education helping young reluctant readers is an avid reader as am I. I also serve as president of the Webster Public Library board of trustees. It seemed a fitting way to help promote values and practices around books, reading and community that we all hold dear. We wanted to honor my mother who is an important source of those values in our lives.

Q: What is your vision for the program?

My vision for the program is to see it continue and to see it grow through:

  • Continued diversity of titles selected over the years-to challenge and stimulate the Roberts community.
  • Creative ways of connecting students to the project.
  • Faculty including the project in their syllabi each year.
  • Students engaged in meaningful discussions and related experiences.
  • Having book related activities and discussions that change people's lives - like they did mine when I was an undergraduate at Houghton College.

Q: Why should people attend Roberts Reads events? What will they get out of the event from a faith and learning perspective?

The Roberts Reads books and events provide opportunities for participants to read something they might not normally read. The theme of faith and living and connection to culture and society is primary. The idea is to help students see their chemistry professor talking about a novel, their business professor relating an idea to culture, their history teacher making a connection to music or religion. When a participant attends a film or a musical event, an art show or a panel discussion, a chapel or coffee and conversation event around a ROBERTS READS title they run the risk of stretching and learning, of helping someone else in the community with a new insight or perhaps even discovering a new question, a new connection or a new idea. Those things happened to me 45 years ago through a common read experience and hopefully they are happening in the RWC community today-in part through this project.

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