The Little Read presents "The Turtle of Michigan"


The Little Read returns to Lenoir-Rhyne University April 18-22 with “The Turtle of Michigan” by acclaimed poet and National Book Award winner Naomi Shihab Nye. In addition to performances and readings that are free and open to the public, LR’s Visiting Writers Series will host more than 1,200 fifth-grade students from Alexander and Catawba counties with displays of book-related artwork, conversations with the author and children’s theatre performances of the novel’s stage adaptation by the Lenoir-Rhyne Playmakers. 

The Turtle of Michigan book cover

Schedule of Events

  • April 18 - Preview of children’s theatre performance of “The Turtle of Michigan” at 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public.
  • April 20 - Newton-Conover City and Catawba County students visit campus in two sessions at 9:30 and 12 p.m.
  • April 20 - Naomi Shihab Nye poetry reading and conversation with the author at 7 p.m. in Belk Centrum. Free and open to the public.
  • April 21 - Hickory City students visit campus from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Alexander County students visit campus from 12-1 p.m.
  • April 22 - The Little Read Festival, featuring a public performance of “The Turtle of Michigan,” author conversation, book signing and school district awards ceremony for students from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Free and open to the public.

“The Turtle of Michigan” is unique among The Little Read selections because it was inspired by students participating in The Little Read in 2019. Nye’s previous novel “The Turtle of Oman” was the featured book that year. Like “The Turtle of Michigan,” this book explores themes related to moving, family, nature and immigration. The participating students begged Nye to tell them what happened to the main character when he moved from Oman to Michigan. She obliged, wrote “The Turtle of Michigan” and dedicated it to the students in Alexander and Catawba counties. 

Naomi Shihab Nye author photo

The Little Read program supports and encourages elementary literacy development by providing meaningful interaction with a nationally recognized children’s author during a spring residency alongside a collaboratively developed multi-disciplinary curriculum for the selected book and grade level. The interaction with the author, hands-on explorations across academic subjects, reflections through writing and art, as well as seeing the book come alive in a play make this literary experience unique and transformative.

Through the generosity of donors to The Little Read program, Lenoir-Rhyne provides free copies of the selected Little Read book to students in collaboration with Hickory City Schools, Catawba County Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools and Alexander County Schools. Additional support comes from the United Arts Council of Catawba County and the North Carolina Arts Council. For some of these elementary school students, this is the first or only book that they have owned. Students and faculty from the Lenoir-Rhyne School of Education collaborate with elementary classroom teachers to develop an engaging curriculum for the book, and the LR Playmakers script and perform a play adapted from the selected book.

Program History

The Little Read began in 2006-2007 school year as a partnership between Ron and Sandra Deal and the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writer Series to honor the life of Sara Catherine Deal Temple, a local elementary education reading specialist who loved children. That first year, The Little Read reached 4th- and 5th-grade students in the Hickory City Public School System. In the 2007-2008 school year, the Catawba County School System and Newton-Conover City Schools joined. In the 2010-2011 school year the Alexander County School System joined.

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