Clinton County Reads for the right reasons

By Chris Owens - For The News Journal

Columbine may be slipping from the collective American memory but, sadly, not for the right reasons.

The 1999 school shooting certainly is slipping down the list of the worst mass shootings in modern American history. Columbine no longer even ranks among the Top 10 in this category.

Las Vegas. Orlando. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. These come to mind when the topic arises these days.

And now Parkland, which marks at least the 18th time this year a gun has been fired on a school campus in the United States, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. The Valentine’s Day incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 17 people died made it the most deadly high school shooting.

Surpassing Columbine.

Columbine is slipping from memory for the wrong reason: We keep witnessing similar tragedies that increase in size and scope.

Because gun violence in schools remains prevalent, I would urge everyone to participate in the 12th annual Clinton County Reads, which runs from March 12 through April 11.

The book selected for this year’s event by a vote of county residents is “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy” by Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the Columbine shooters.

The Wilmington, Sabina, and Blanchester public libraries and Books ‘N’ More will sponsor a variety of related programs and book discussions. (A complete schedule can be found at

The mission statement for the Clinton County Reads Committee, which selects the titles for the ballot, reads: “The purpose of Clinton County Reads is to strengthen our community by bringing people together through a shared reading experience to discuss issues that matter.”

I can think of no issue that matters more right now than guns in schools, as we continue reading about more incidents just since Parkland.

Klebold has spent the years since the Columbine shooting trying to figure out how her son Dylan could do such a thing – and how she could have had no idea something was wrong with him.

“I would gladly give my life to reverse what happened that day, and yet I know that nothing I can do or say could ever atone for Dylan’s choices, choices that I have spent the last sixteen years trying to understand,” Klebold writes. “Although it is very hard for me to share my story – to lay bare my heart and the inner workings of my family – I feel a moral imperative to share the insights I have gleaned to help other families see the signs when their children need help.”

Reading this book is not easy. Reading this book as a parent can be very difficult. Personally, reading this book as a parent of two teenage boys (as Ms. Klebold was at the time of the shooting) was especially gut-wrenching.

The family life and teenage son she describes likely sound eerily familiar to many of us. They do for me. There are just so many things we, as parents, do not and, arguably, cannot know about our teenage children.

Our greatest hope is honest communication, something that seems to be scarce in our world today. Ms. Klebold bares her soul and her family life in this book to try to do her part.

Clinton County Reads is doing its small part by offering opportunities to have good, healthy discussions about the topics she raises.

Maybe if enough people do their parts, no other parents will have to deal with their child being senselessly killed at school. And no other parent will have to write a book like this one.

Chris Owens is the Director of the Blanchester Public Library and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Clinton County Reads Committee.

By Chris Owens

For The News Journal