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Newest HB Reads selection focuses on bullying

A reception will be held Oct. 10 to kick off the start of citywide reading program, which will center on Jay Asher's "Thirteen Reasons Why."

September 04, 2012|By Michael Miller
(Courtesy thirteenreasonswhy.com )

Next year, as in the past, the HB Reads program will spotlight a group of people who are often invisible in everyday life.

This time, though, they won't be miles away in Sudan or Afghanistan, toiling on a migrant farm or secluded in a special-education class.

The citywide reading program, which selects a book every year with a diversity and human-rights theme, has turned its attention for next year to victims of bullying — a group that may include countless members of the readership, even if they don't let their credentials show.

Jay Asher's "Thirteen Reasons Why," a 2007 novel about a teenager who commits suicide and leaves tape-recorded messages explaining to 13 people why she chose to end her life, will be the program's sixth offering this fall and the coming winter.

The HB Reads program will officially kick off with a reception at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Huntington Beach Central Library. The regular events, which typically include children's workshops, discussions and at least one film screening, will start after the new year and end with an author visit at Huntington Beach High School on March 21.

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Fred Provencher, the founder of HB Reads, said his committee was inspired to choose Asher's novel partly because of several recent national news stories about bullying. Still, Provencher considers bullying a largely invisible problem — at least for those whose cases don't land on the cover of People or Time.

"We always try to find something that will make people think," he said. "I think the subject of bullying is very common, and yet it doesn't get publicized as often as I think it might."

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A hard group to classify

According to the Huntington Beach Human Relations Task Force, which formed in the 1990s and later spawned HB Reads, that statement applies to Surf City as much as any other location.

In May, the group compiled a study, based on interviews with law enforcement, school officials and others, that concluded that 28% to 30% of Huntington Beach children are involved in bullying either as victim or perpetrator.

The City Council asked the task force to conduct the study and make a recommendation on whether the city needed an anti-bullying ordinance. Ultimately, the task force determined than an ordinance wasn't necessary, but suggested the city take several other measures, including an annual bullying survey, community awareness events and a city-wide reporting system.

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