GALLIPOLIS — River Valley High School junior and senior English students gathered in the Bossard Memorial Library Monday evening with loved ones and friends for the second annual Novel with Neighbors event.
“This is a joint venture with Mrs. (Kaleigh) Cox’s AP literature class and my seniors in AP language,” said RVHS English Teacher Aaron Walker. “It’s also in conjunction with the University of Rio Grande where students are able to receive dual credit…This is a collegiate level activity and class that we have…We have two goals with this and are largely our goals in all our programs, reading and relationships. We want to encourage students to have meaningful academic discourse with various people in their lives. We want to encourage them to have healthy, meaningful relationships with other adults, whether that’s a parent, a teacher, a guardian, whoever. We let them choose who they want to read a book with and then those ‘neighbors’ have graciously done so and come out this evening. They then discuss (elements of the book).”
Students had to create physical representations of elements in their books such as a game, poetry booklets, collages and more. Students and “neighbors” read their book over the course of a few weeks.
“Altogether, we’ve got 41 students who will be doing this,” said Walker. “Adding the ‘neighbors,’ you’ve got 82 people for this event.”
“The room is full and I think we have maybe two empty chairs around,” said Cox at the beginning of the event. “I think it’s neat seeing everyone here at the same time sharing something that they read…It’s a cool atmosphere.”
Junior Brier Campbell and his grandmother, Delores Dalton, read the book “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes.
The science fiction story is noted for having won the Nebula Award for Best Novel. The text describes a fictional study of Charlie Gordon, a developmentally disabled man who participates in a surgery which increases his mental abilities. A laboratory mouse, Algernon, also undergoes a similar surgery. Both beings see their cognitive capabilities increase for a few months before lessening. Both beings also attempt to solve mazes through the story and are used as test subjects in medical research.
Campbell’s physical representation project of the story was a labyrinth he designed on paper which Dalton worked to solve.
Dalton noted that the novel was published in the 1960s so some of its terminology was different than what might be utilized today in conversations surrounding medical procedures and individuals with developmental disabilities.
“I think in the next five or 10 years, there’s always (medical controversies) people talk about,” said Campbell. He said he felt new medical procedures and technologies could help people have a higher quality of life.
“Medicine is always changing,” said Dalton, who said she had a background in a healthcare field. “Things are changing so much. Who knows what we’ll find.”
Both Campbell and Dalton noted that the story also felt sad in that the character Gordon was used as a “guinea pig” for the medical procedure.
Campbell also said he felt an important theme of the story was learning to appreciate what one has in life.
Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342. © 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.