Great Lakes Community Read Starting This Summer


The Wisconsin Water Library (WWL) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) are facilitating Great Lakes, Great Read, ( a basin-wide community read program with scheduled activities beginning in late summer.

The books chosen for this communal reading initiative were announced on Earth Day in April. The adult selection is “The Best Part of Us” by Sally Cole-Misch. This novel explores family ties — to each other, a common heritage and culture, and the natural world.

The children’s selection is “The Water Walker” by Anishinaabe author, illustrator and water-protection activist Joanne Robertson. Her book is based on the true story of Josephine Manadamin who, along with others, walked around all of the Great Lakes in honor of water and the planet.

The WWL is supported by the Water Resources Institute and Sea Grant. Water Library Director Anne Moser said the reading program is based on the need for greater education about the Great Lakes. While approximately 34 million people in the U.S. and Canada live in the Great Lakes basin, recent surveys, such as the International Joint Commission Great Lakes Regional Poll in 2021, show a lack of understanding of the threats facing the greatest freshwater resource in the world.

“It’s difficult to care about something you know nothing about,” said Moser. “Education, in this case, environmental literacy, is central to cultivating stewardship of the Great Lakes and of water resources more broadly.”

WLA Executive Director Laura Sauser said the “one book, one community” model, already adopted by many libraries, is a natural fit for the idea of a basin-wide community read. She noted that Wisconsin is the perfect state to pilot this idea, catalyzing other Upper Midwestern states and Canadian provinces to engage and inspire passion and connection to the freshwater seas through reading.

“Wisconsinites have a deep connection to water through culture, economy, tourism and way of life. This connection, coupled with the WLA’s network of academic, public and special libraries, gives us a strong foundation for success,” she said.

All Wisconsinites will be encouraged to read these titles, and libraries around the state will be encouraged to engage their residents through book discussions and related activities such as public presentations.

Join the Great Lakes, Great Read 2024 email list ( for updates.