Common Reading Experience Opens Students’ Eyes to Humanitarian Need

Common Reading Experience Opens Students’ Eyes to Humanitarian Need

MOUNT OLIVE – Conor Grennan’s Little Princeswas this year’s common reading selection for the UMO freshmen class.  The book chronicles the author’s trip to an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.  He soon discovers that the children are not orphans, but rather were taken from their families by child traffickers.  The book shares Grennan’s efforts to reunite the children with their parents.

Jackie Hill, chair of the Common Reading Selection Committee and instruction librarian, said, “The book is an amazing story of strength, commitment, leadership and compassion told with humor and gravity.  The story transcends academic disciplines, cultures, and religious backgrounds and has challenged students and faculty to think globally and look for ways to make a positive impact here or abroad.”

Throughout the fall semester freshmen students participated in a variety of activities aimed at helping them explore human trafficking, leadership, selflessness, the history of Nepal and service to others.  Students also participated in small group discussions and provided thoughtful, written reflections on the book.

Shania Riffle, a freshman from Fairmont, West Virginia, said, “I really enjoyed the book. It interested me in a lot of ways. I like that it had a serious side when it came to finding the kids, a fun side when it came to playing with the kids and a romantic side when it came to Liz. There were various emotions throughout the book. The book changed the way I think about problems in other countries and made me appreciate how lucky we are in America.”

“It amazed me that Conor Grennan took the responsibility upon himself to reconnect the kids with their families,” said Alex Boykin, a freshmen from Goldsboro, “It makes me want to get more involved in something like that.”

Patrick Sharpe of Pinetop stated, “The book really made me look hard at my faith.  God was pushing Connor to go back and help the kids, and he finally went back. I think faith plays a big role in everyone’s life.”

The highlight of the semester was held in early November when Conor Grennan visited UMO and met with the freshmen class to discuss his book and afterwards shake hands, take photos and sign books for students and community members.

“It was fun to meet the author behind the text,” said Frederik Tronier Kapper, a freshman from Viborg, Denmark.  “Conor Grennan created pictures to what we read in class and brought the text to life. Now, there is a relationship to the book; it’s not just a book.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Dan Sullivan said, “The Common Reading Selection builds a sense of community among the freshmen by giving them a shared experience, encouraging the exchange of ideas in an academic setting and stressing the importance of reading as a college student and informed adult.”

Rebecca Farnsley, a freshman from Peoria, AZ, agreed, “I think having a class focused completely on this book really helps college students genuinely grasp the concepts of the text and get more out of it than they would if they had read it on their own. It encourages students to communicate and talk to each other about the events in the book and unknowingly, students are bonding over reading.  It has been a wonderful experience.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit

Micah Lee, a freshman from Mount Olive, has her book signed by Author Conor Grennan.

Freshman Hannah Lee of Mount Olive poses for a photo with her copy of the book Little Princes and the books’ author Conor Grennan.