NORWICH — Dozens of children and their families spread throughout downtown Saturday for a scavenger hunt in search of characters from “I Just Like You,” a children’s book written and illustrated by Chenango County native Suzanne Bloom.

The scavenger hunt was part of the “One Community, One Book” program sponsored by Improve Norwich Now, a grassroots community group dedicated to enhancing the lives of Norwich residents by promoting literacy, poverty awareness and other wellness factors, according to cofounder Jen Westervelt, pastor at Canasawacta Valley Free Methodist Church.

“Being able to read is such an important life skill,” said Westervelt, a former English teacher.

“I Just Like You” promotes messages of tolerance and acceptance, illustrating how animals of different species become friends in spite of their differences and modeling the ways young children make friends by sharing observations and trading compliments in simple conversation.

Bloom, a McDonough resident of 40 years, read aloud from her book — the latest in a span of 20 she has authored and illustrated throughout her 40-year career — for groups of children and their families ducking in from the cold to finish the scavenger hunt.

“The books are mostly about friends solving a problem, which is life,” Bloom said. Other titles include “The Bus for Us,” “No Place for a Pig” and the Goose and Bear series.

Bloom said she has visited schools all across the country and even traveled to China to share her works with students.

“I like being surprised by kids’ reactions,” she said. “But I love when parents buy a book for their child that they remember reading when they were young.”

Some of the characters from “I Just Like You” made additional appearances in a companion coloring book designed by Bloom for the children in attendance to color and assemble after she read.

“It all has such a positive message,” Westervelt said. “We can’t get along with people who are different from us — that’s a myth. We can work with anyone.”

Westervelt said she hopes to continue the “One Community, One Book” program as INN continues to cultivate its presence in the community. Other programs are designed to provide support and services for housing, sobriety, food security and financial literacy.

For more information about Improve Norwich Now, contact 607-238-3392 or improvenorwichnow@gmail.com or visit improvenorwichnow.org.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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