The Big Book

In October of 2004, eight fifth-grade students joined a Groton Dunstable Regional Middle School after-school enrichment program. They wanted to make a book filled with student literary offerings that would be accepted into the Guinness World Book of Records. Teacher/adviser Betsy Sawyer attended a Jimmy Cliff concert and brought back a powerful message to her students from the activist reggae musician, “It’s up to us to teach the children about peace” she described the singer as saying. Cliff also asked his audience, “What have you done to promote peace lately?”

The after school students decided the topic of their book should be PEACE and The Bookmakers and Dreamers Club was born.

As they began their research, they reached out to everyone they could think of to ask for advice on how to achieve peace. They sent letters to thousands of people around the world asking for their opinions about peace:

  • What is peace?
  • Will there ever be world peace?
  • Where do you see the world in 20 years?
  • What have YOU done to help create a more peaceful world?
  • What can kids do to help create a more peaceful world?

As the kid’s campaign expanded with each year of incoming fifth-graders, the letters poured in. These optimistic students decided that their book should be 10 feet by 12 feet and would be a volume that was not only large in size, but larger in stature by making its contents meaningful.

To date, the club has received more than 3,500 letters from peace activists, teachers, politicians, veterans, and students all over the world. Nobel Laureates such as Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter, and the Dalai Lama have contributed along with Dr. Helen Caldicott, Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Pete Seeger. In a moving tribute at the Big Book’s 2014 debut at the JFK Library in Boston, UN Secretary General added his message to The Big Book: Pages for Peace.

The original members of the Bookmakers and Dreamers Club have now graduated from high school and over 400 other students from Groton Dunstable Middle School have joined the club to continue peace studies along with making the Big Book. Besides researching prospects for peace by writing all of those letters and mapping the conflicts that continue today throughout the world, the students have also expanded their academic horizons as their journey has exposed them to up-to-the-minute technology required in order to make the world’s largest book.

They have traveled to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s Francis College of Engineering to learn about some engineering concepts in order to choose the proper media on which to print their giant book. They watched as technicians demonstrated tests for tensile strength that ultimately determined that DuPont’s Tyvek® was the media of choice as it was very strong, wouldn’t tear and was light enough to be practical. People are more often familiar with other uses for Tyvek such as in the construction trade where it “wraps” buildings to offer air and water resistance, postal delivery envelopes and protective covers for boats and cars.

The next step in the process required some expertise in printing “really big” things. Some research lead teacher Betsy Sawyer to seek the help of a New England company, EFI VUTEk, a manufacturer of grand format ink jet printers in Meredith NH. Representatives from EFI VUTEk offered to provide some technical expertise for the project as well as donate the huge volume of ink required to print the 500-double sided page book. (If you think the toner for your computer’s ink jet printer is expensive, imagine how much ink is required to print such a huge book.)

In order to grasp a better understanding of how the giant printers work, club members took a field trip 90-miles north to EFI VUTEK’s Meredith NH headquarters to gain some first hand knowledge about the world of grand format printing. It was an awesome sight to see club members’ looks of amazement as they watched a copy of a photo being printed that had been taken of them that morning. The photo was as large as one of the pages of the book – 10 feet wide by 12 feet tall!

The staff at EFI VUTEk introduced the Bookmakers and Dreamers to UniGraphic of Woburn, MA, one of New England’s leading printing companies that agreed to print the giant tome using the VUTEk GS3250LX. During the students’ first trip to visit UniGraphic four years ago, it was then estimated it would take as long as 25-minutes to print each side of 10 foot by 12 foot page. EFI’s technology has rapidly changed since that time with the introduction of the more environmentally friendly VUTEk GS3200LX in 2011, and recently purchased by UniGraphic. It is now estimated that it will take only nine minutes for UniGraphic to print each side of a 10 foot by 12 foot page. The 3.2 meter wide LED printer contains no VOCs, uses less consumables, produces less waste, uses less energy. So the printing of the Big Book: Pages for Peace is today a far “greener” project that it was when it was first envisioned in 2004.