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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rob Curley: Northwest Passages Book Club helps us connect with Storytime from the Tower and virtual community forums

It’s incredible how life has changed over the past month. There’s no reason to recount the differences. We’re all living it. Daily.

Through this, two things have become obvious: We all can’t get enough of the latest information, especially local news; and healthy distractions are becoming more important by the minute. Boredom and weight gain have never felt so connected.

For the past month or so, we’ve known we needed to make some changes to our popular Northwest Passages Book Club and community forum series. That kicked into overdrive two weeks ago. This week, you’ll see those changes.

Books have always been important to us. But a very different sort of book will become our focus today. And along with it, a very different audience than those who typically attend our events.

Today, if you visit our Northwest Passages website, you’ll see something called “Storytime from the Tower.” We’ve asked some notable folks from across our region if they would help us help the very young kids in our community who are no longer going to school by reading children’s books for them. Not a single person has told us “no” … and we reached out to some biggies.

We’ll release two or three new videos every couple of days for as long as it’s needed. Some were recorded professionally. Most were recorded on mobile phones from living rooms across the Pacific Northwest, though one was recorded from outer space and another was recorded somewhere near Hollywood – both seeming impossibly far away at this moment.

Yes, astronaut Anne McClain gave us a video. Actually a couple. And she’s willing to read terrestrially if we ask her.

Then there’s Big Ed. Gonzaga grad, and the coolest movie star and cartoon-character voice that most of us know, Eric Edlestein read “Frog and Toad.” He actually went one step further and got a whole bunch of other famous voice actors to read for a similar project that he’s been leading.

This morning, you’ll find a video of McClain reading “Annie the Astronaut,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers reading “Peter Rabbit” and the editor of this newspaper reading his favorite children’s book, “Mr. Peabody’s Apples” by Madonna. Yes, that Madonna.

Other upcoming readers include lots of prominent politicians, university presidents and deans, local actors and actresses, famous chefs, some cool college coaches, notable business leaders from across the region, weather forecasters with fantastic hair, people who make the tastiest ice cream and coffee, as well as some of the very authors and poets who have already been a part of other Northwest Passages events.

Rogers High School Principal Lori Wyborney recently said learning doesn’t always have to be sitting at a desk or in a classroom and that learning means facing the realities that are relevant to our world right now.

But that doesn’t mean children still shouldn’t listen to someone read them a good story with lots of colorful pictures.

Of course, there’s no way we’d forget our core audience for Northwest Passages.

Yes, we’re going to have lively and entertaining discussions with cool authors, complete with audience questions. Only now it all will be live streaming. Another big change will be how often we hold these internet versions of Northwest Passages events.Three sessions a month used to be considered a lot.

Now, it’s likely we’ll have that many in a single day; not just with authors.

That’s where we hope Northwest Passages becomes even more powerful and relevant to our community, especially at this exact time. We already have commitments from doctors and medical school deans to answer the kinds of questions we all have right now, education professionals will help us with our new roles as home-school teachers, mental health experts to make sure we’re focused on the wellness of our minds, officials from our school districts to explain what the future might look like in classrooms across the region and elected officials and leaders from all levels of government will tell us what they’re working on and seeing.

We’ll also host sessions with some of our journalists and editors. There might not be a group of people in this area who combine to know more about what’s going on across our community than the group who are putting together this newspaper and website each day.

We also want to have a focus on the things that bring us joy; that’s why we’ll definitely have author talks. The bigger surprise is that we even have coaches and administrators from universities who are going to participate in these live forums. I’m trying not to name-drop, but if you’re a Cougs fan, you’re going to be happy.

We’ll even have folks on who might be able to help with the extra pounds some of us may or may not be gaining right now.

The exact dates and times of these special streaming Northwest Passages events will be published soon in our newspaper and on our website. Here’s a hint, though: they start Tuesday. Don’t worry if you miss one. We’ll be archiving all of these videos and writing about many of these discussions in our paper.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve all heard the phrase “isolated but not alone.” That’s true. But many of us still miss the camaraderie and relationships we’ve developed through our Northwest Passages events.

We can’t wait for all of us to be able to safely get together in the comfy confines of The Bing. Until then, we’ll do it this way.

We’ve always wanted Northwest Passages to be a way to make the world feel a little smaller, showing that some of the most influential authors, chefs and sports stars in the world would come to us to share their stories.

Now, with all of us stuck in our homes, we’re hoping Northwest Passages might be able to make the world feel a little bigger again. And bring us together. Even if only virtually.

Help continue these efforts:

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