KirklandSafe, with local arts and book groups, is sponsoring a campaign — a new all-city reads program called Kirkland Reads, Creating Conversations — that hopes to connect the community this fall.
The idea is for everyone in Kirkland to read one book, and to have deep, inclusive discussions about its themes. For its inaugural program, KirklandSafe selected “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream,” by Joshua Davis. It’s a true story of a team of impoverished high school students who defy the odds to win an underwater robotics competition against the nation’s top universities.
The four teenagers were born in Mexico, raised in the United States and attended Carl Hayden Community High School, located in an economically disadvantaged Mexican American neighborhood in Phoenix.
“The idea is to get all of Kirkland interested in the same story, for about eight weeks,” said Leah Kliger of KirklandSafe. “We hope to start a discussion on perseverance, ingenuity, hope and what it means to be an immigrant.”
“Spare Parts” is the springboard for Kirkland residents, employees and visitors to explore intersecting topics around the immigrant experience, friendship, achievement, competition, personal values and equal opportunity. The story, which has also been made into a movie and documentary, became a key inspiration to the DREAMers movement and set the stage for STEM programs.
“We’re looking forward to seeing people get inspired by these kids, who came from nothing and worked together,” said Paula White-Greschler of KirklandSafe. “It’s a way of using storytelling to start conversations that can break through this divisiveness. It will resonate with everyone, regardless of politics.”
To help facilitate the discussion in the community, KirklandSafe is putting on a variety of events, from group conversations at local bookstores and libraries to an afternoon with Fredi Lajvardi, the teacher who inspired his students to pursue robotics.
The Lake Washington High School Robotics club is also involved with Kirkland Reads, and will be hosting a Robot Expo on Sept. 22. KirklandSafe and the club were at Summerfest, promoting the event. KirklandSafe will also be at Crossing Kirkland on Sept. 8 and City Hall For All on Oct. 6.
Liz Sirjani, who coaches the robotics team at LWHS, said it’s a great way to teach students problem solving skills, along with teamwork and collaboration.
The city asked KirklandSafe to launch an all-city reads program about a year and a half ago, when it adopted its “safe, welcoming and inclusive city” ordinance. The group decided to pick a book that was accessible to all ages and reading levels — “not too long or too short, not too difficult or too easy,” Kliger said.
“We wanted it to be applicable to as many groups as possible,” said White-Greschler, including people who speak a different language, as about 25 percent of Kirkland residents speak English as a second language.
The book will be offered in large print, Spanish and electronically at the library, the group said. They are also asking for donations, including company matches, and accepting requests for books, so everyone can participate in the program.
KirklandSafe is working with the library and other sponsors, including 4Culture and BookTree, and is also collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club, Kirkland Teen Union Building (KTUB) and Imagine Housing.
Those interested in having conversation with their book club or other groups can download a free discussion guide at kirklandreads.org. King County Library System staff have also recommended related reads to continue the conversation.
Calendar of events
– Books in a variety of formats and free book club discussion guides will be available at Kingsgate and Kirkland libraries from 12-3 p.m. on Sept. 15-16.
– Books will be available at the Kirkland Boys and Girls Club from 12-3 p.m. on Sept. 15.
– Get discount coupons to buy “Spare Parts” at BookTree, 609 Market St.
Book Group Conversations
– BookTree, 7 p.m., Sept. 25, 609 Market St.
– Downtown Kirkland Library, 2 p.m., Oct 4.
– Kingsgate Library, 2 p.m., Oct 13.
– Robot Expo from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the LWHS cafeteria, 12033 NE 80th St. The LWHS Robotics club will be driving their personal robots. Learn easy ways to program robots and learn about FIRST Mindstorm projects for elementary students.
– Robot Garage at Kingsgate Library from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Sept. 29, and at Kirkland Library, 2-4 p.m. on Sept. 29. Third- through seventh-grade participants use robotics kits to explore the basic engineering skills required to build a successful extraterrestrial rover. Students will also learn some of the history of robotics and discuss the latest achievements of robots in space, on Earth and in the home. Space is limited. Register at kcls.org or call the library where the program takes place. Presented by The Museum of Flight. Sponsored by Friends of the Kingsgate Library and Friends of the Library Kirkland.
“Spare Parts” Movie Nights
– Kirkland Library, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 4.
– Kingsgate Library, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 16.
Join for two free viewings as George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, Carlos PenaVega and Marisa Tomei lead a winning cast in the Hollywood version of “Spare Parts” (2015) (PG-13), another great way to experience Kirkland Read’s book for 2018. A facilitated discussion will follow.
Fredi Lajvardi: Improbable to Unstoppable
– Meet the celebrated STEM teacher who inspired the underdogs in “Spare Parts” from 3-6 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the Peter Kirk Community Center, 352 Kirkland Ave. Come early for robot origami making and music starting at 2:30 p.m. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow his talk.
Fredi Lajvardi will share valuable insight on fostering creativity, teamwork and embracing diversity. He will kindle an innate sense of ingenuity with his remarkable firsthand account of how a team of high school students became a national championship robotics team.
“Underwater Dreams” Documentary
– 3 p.m. on Nov. 3 at KTUB, 348 Kirkland Ave. Features the four former students and their teachers 10 years after their improbable win and the STEM legacy inspired by their school. This movie is not rated. A facilitated discussion will follow. Kids activities: Die cut and origami robot making in the lobby before and during the documentary and discussion.