Why is the Drachen Foundation flying high with shared reading programs? Because Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, set in Afghanistan and featuring fighter kiting, is entrenched on national bestseller lists and has become popular with communities interested in the kind of format Nancy Pearl initiated in 1998 with "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book." In May 2005 Drachen supported a fighter kite demonstration for the library system in Deschutes County, Oregon reading The Kite Runner. Drachen was then contacted by Preface, The Cal Poly Shared Reading Program for similar help. The innovation in the Cal Poly program was a "town/gown" focus, using shared reading and related activities to develop connections between college students and San Luis Obispo residents. All incoming freshmen were to read The Kite Runner, and were invited to join with community members in a series of discussion groups and activities about the book.
Cal Poly's Kennedy Library hosted the Drachen Foundation's touring exhibit, About Kites, from October 3rd through 28th. And on Sunday, October 16th, thirty Cal Poly students and community members (many children with parents) gathered on campus to assemble, bridle, and fly "Fusion Fighters." With the assistance of his wife, Kathleen, fighter kite champion Jay Bell (most recently winner of the Open Fighter Kite Division of the Golden Gate Challenge, sponsored by the Bay Area Sport Kite League) delivered a short lecture on the history of fighter kites, complete with many examples, and helped all workshop participants with the tricky details of bridling. Then all participants trooped to a Cal Poly field where, watched by 100-some spectators, they practiced flying the kites they had made.
Special thanks to Bruce Lambert, past North American fighter kite champion and creator of the "Fusion Fighter," who assisted with arrangements for Jay's workshop and with whom the Drachen Foundation is working to create a fighter kite program for middle-schoolers.