Durham celebrates literacy at Reader’s Party

Bernard Liles reads his original work, “He Wanted,” with his accompanying art work on display at the Reader’s Party. (Staff photo by Chrissy Murphy)


At the Hayti Heritage Center Sunday afternoon, Durham residents piled into the auditorium to enjoy selected readings from fellow community members.

The Reader’s Party, a family-friendly event hosted by the Durham County Library and sponsored by the Durham Library Foundation, celebrates reading and performing in the community by inviting community members to the stage to read some of their favorite works, spanning excerpts from plays, short stories, songs, and even some original works.

Isay Njie, 12, was among those that took to the stage Sunday. Isay read a poem called “Thanksgiving.”

“Thanksgiving feels like never ending family time,” Isay read.

Isay has been attending this event since it first started about two years ago.

“I like hearing their stories and I like to read and be on stage,” Isay said.

Jennah Formey, left, smiles with Isay Njie, right, and Mamadi Njie, center, after Sunday’s Reader’s Party. (Staff photo by Chrissy Murphy)

Another patron of the event was Bernard Liles, who read his own work, “He Wanted,” and presented it with an accompanying art piece. Bernard goes to the event whenever he can, provided he doesn’t have to work.

Bernard said he likes the event because, “people can express themselves in a safe environment.”

The event is aimed to promote literacy in the Durham community. One of the founders of the event, Joan J. Njie said she wanted to promote a love of reading in the community.

“I’ve always loved to read,” she said. “I was a reading teacher. I wanted to encourage children, especially, to enjoy reading.”

Joan, the grandmother of Isay Njie, noted that a large number of attendees for the Reader’s Parties are older Durham community members.

“What’s amazing is that older people are really loyal readers and come read to support the Reader’s Party,” Joan said. “The more the merrier.”

Jennah Formey, a 15-year-old student at J. D. Clement Early College High School, said she loves to perform spoken word pieces at the event, but on Sunday she chose to observe.

“I like to hear what people think,” Jennah said.

Part of the beauty of the event is that it allows people to read or observe, Joan noted. She pointed out that some people might simply be too shy or nervous to get up and perform on stage, but nothing will stop them from taking in the experience.

“They have an opportunity to come out and listen,” Njie said.

Listening and performing aren’t the only things that bring people out to the event, though.

Mamadi Njie, 10, also a grandchild of Joan Njie, came to the event on Sunday to help out with setting the event up. Mamadi helped set up microphones before the event started and helped with the lights throughout the event.

“I had a job,” Mamadi said. “I was helping them because the light guy couldn’t make it.”

Jenny Levine, the humanities and adult programming coordinator at the Durham County Library, helped start the event, which she said promotes lots of different themes throughout the community.

“It merges literacy, community engagement, and theater,” Levine said.

Levine said she loves to see the positive impact the event has on the community, recalling a performance from a past Reader’s Party.

“One young mom came in and performed something she had written as a gift for her husband,” Jenny said. “She was so happy and excited.”

The broad range of participants is another thing that Jenny said she enjoys about the event.

“It attracts a diverse group of people,” Jenny said. “It has something for everyone.”

The next Reader’s Party will be held in March. For more information on this event and other events hosted by the Durham County Library, visit www.durhamcountylibrary.org.