Free Library of Philadelphia
Mayor John F. Street with One Book, One Philadelphia author, Lorene Cary

Left: Mayor John F. Street with One Book, One Philadelphia author, Lorene Cary

Report from a branch:
“ We have not been able to keep a copy of the book on the shelf for more than 24 hours. Especially significant is the diversity of people who have been reading the book and discussing the issues it raises.”

In the City’s first-ever shared reading assignment, many thousands of Philadelphia-area adults and teenagers read Lorene Cary’s The Price of a Child. One Book, One Philadelphia found strangers as well as neighbors discussing this carefully researched story of a young woman’s escape from slavery in 1855 Philadelphia. The project, which ran from February to April, was presented as a joint project of the Free Library and the Office of the Mayor, under the chairmanship of Stephanie W. Naidoff. Its success reflected the great support received from 15 corporate, governmental, and organizational sponsors, more than 100 volunteers, and more than 50 community sponsors.
No one knows how many people read the book, but these numbers tell part of the story:

To meet the expected demand for the book, the Library bought 2,000 extra copies - ten times the usual number for a best-seller. Between the program’s announcement in November and its end in April, these copies circulated 7,696 times; and some branches had long waiting lists. According to the publisher, more than 36,000 copies were purchased in the Philadelphia area - twelve times the typical number for a city-wide one-book project!

Purchasers of the novel were able to deposit their used copies in collection bins at Rite Aid drug stores for re-distribution to other readers, at no cost, through the Friends of the Free Library Book Corner.
St. Thomas African Episcopal Church Gospel Choir performs at the Cecil B. Moore Avenue Branch
Architect Emmanuel Kelly leads a walking tour of historical sites related to The Price of a Child
Meanwhile, hundreds of related programs were presented around the City - readings by the author, discussions, exhibitions, concerts of Gospel music, historic re-enactments, theatrical performances, Underground Railroad lectures, walking tours of old Philadelphia, even a mock trial. More than 100 programs were held in Library branches; others were presented in schools and colleges, churches, historical societies, community theaters, and other cultural institutions. Starbucks Coffee shops hosted ten discussion groups.
The Library contributed 1,800 copies of the book for use by classes in City public high schools and charter schools, where class discussion was supported by a Curriculum Guide prepared by the School District and a Resource Guide prepared by project members. More than 800 students in 14 high schools heard Ms. Cary read from her book.

Around the City, One Book, One Philadelphia has not only fostered literacy and community spirit - it has also helped thousands of neighbors discuss issues of constitutional rights, racial and gender relationships, and social justice.

Philadelphians potray Mercer Gray and her lawyers in the Mock Trial