Great Community Book Read Back »

The Great Community Book Read is offered to encourage citizens to learn about and discuss  community-wide issues that are impacting the sustainability of South Dakota’s small towns. Each participating community will be challenged to identify and implement simple action steps to address the issues that are selected. SDSU Extension Community Vitality will provide community coaching during the implementation of the action steps. The Great Community Book Read program was the winner of the 2013 Community Development Society’s Innovative Program Award.

SDSU Extension Community Vitality is currently featuring Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America by Patrick J. Carr and Maria Kefalas for the Great Community Book Read program.

About the Book

Hollowing Out the Middle reports on a study of graduates of a small town high school. The graduates are placed into four categories:

  • Achievers—graduates that small towns program right out the door.
  • Seekers—graduates who want to see the world and flee small town life.
  • Stayers—graduates who stay and don’t acquire further education.
  • Returners—graduates who acquire post- secondary education and return right away or develop careers and return later.

The study revealed small towns spend most of its education resources on the Achievers who leave and the least on the Stayers who will be the community’s leaders. They encourage reallocating resources to develop the knowledge and skills of the Stayers for community sustainability.

How It Works


  • Develop an organizing committee.
  • Contact SDSU Extension Community Vitality to set a date.
  • Recruit readers and discussion participants.
  • Arrange location and refreshments.

SDSU Extension Community Vitality provides:

  • 20 books per community.
  • Facilitators for a structured discussion.
  • Coaching through the implementation of the action steps.

Communities In Action

  • Gregory — encouraging organizations to give scholarships to Stayers for technical training.
  • Iroquois — conducting an inventory of interest and skills of residents and developing a method for better local communication.
  • Kimball — considering a second book read and calling a town hall meeting to identify one community issue on which all can focus.
  • Montrose — developing marketing tools featuring the benefits of a small town.
  • Newell — the group has been active in other community and economic development efforts
  • Scotland — talked to Stayers and invite them to a meeting to find out their interests and needs.
  • Tripp — planning a business mentoring program for high school students.
  • Wagner — organized a community issue book club and discussion group.
  • Webster — recruiting younger people to become future leaders.
  • Wilmot — exploring a loan program for entrepreneurs and a topic for a future community book read.

Request This Program from a Community Vitality Field Specialist near you:

More Information about the Great Community Book Read:

Related Information and Resources

Customized resources are also available to meet your Community Vitality Goals.

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