The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Reading Between the Lines: Year End Round Up Edition

Washington, DC

For this, our last Reading Between the Lines post of the year, we are taking a look back at some of the insightful thoughts and memorable events described by those leading Big Read activities across the country. Thank you again to everyone who participated and gave us a weekly glimpse into the unique, fun, and compelling Big Read activities taking place in their communities!

At the Fuller Craft Museum, Massasoit Community College students created collaborative word collages and graphic poems inspired by Emily Dickinson?s poetry at Word-A-Palooza! Photo courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum

CREATING A NATION OF READERS

The Big Read in Ridgefield is creating a town-wide conversation that is magical. People are walking out of the library with their copy in hand. On Main Street, residents purchase their discounted copy at the local bookstore and talk about it in coffee shops and restaurants. Middle schoolers will come home from school next week having seen a one-man show about John Steinbeck and the high schoolers, who are dreading having to read it for English class, have so many wonderful ways to augment their experience with the book. They can go see a concert at The Ridgefield Playhouse about Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie, and the Dust Bowl Era. They can view a photography exhibit at the local museum or a poster exhibit at the library. They can attend one of many book discussions being organized at the library. All of these opportunities help young people get into the world of the novel and help them get invested in their reading. This is what The Big Read is all about and this is what we wanted to bring to Ridgefield!
---Jodi Simon Stewart, Ridgefield Playhouse

What is really great is that this programming is not just used one time. The teachers that we distribute materials to use it over and over in their classes, the library staff uses some of the materials as models for other programming, and it has spurred the participation by many of the community members in other things the library does.
---Samantha Pierson, Lincoln County Public Libraries

UNIQUE CONNECTIONS WITH THE NOVEL

[T]he theme of immigration, which we addressed through an interdisciplinary panel, could not be more relevant to Hays. Volga-German immigrants, whose initial experiences on the prairie were much like those of the Shimerdas, helped shaped the culture of our community during the late nineteenth century---just as Mexican-American immigrants are helping to shape it today. Cather wrote about multiculturalism decades before the word was coined, and the questions she raises about ethnicity and nationality (who, after all, is the real American by the end of the book, Jim or Ántonia?) couldn?t be more timely. Participants in our Big Read picked up on that almost immediately, young and old alike.
---Steven Trout, Fort Hays State University

Vermont represents one of the highest National Guard per capita participation rates of any state in the country. With so many men and women returning from combat zones each month, [Tim] O?Brien?s work creates an ideal backdrop for discussing issues that many Vermont families struggle with today. The National Guard is a unique branch of the military in that active duty soldiers do not return to a base with their fellow soldiers but are placed directly back into their pre-combat lives. This means that rural Vermont communities serve as the only base that many veterans have. Northern Stage believes that through the power of art and literature, we as a state can help our brave men and women return to a supportive and healthy home. What better way to begin than through the stories in The Things They Carried?
---Kyle Silliman-Smith, Northern Stage

[Emily] Dickinson is a poet of great consolation and understanding who can represent the depths of both pain and joy in human experience. She is also perplexing, charming, quirky, ironic, and endlessly stimulating. We wanted to give our community a sense of the eternal matters that she inhabits so freely, and to help students and adult readers experience the mysterious power of her language to refresh our perceptions of the world. To be a Detroiter means a daily confrontation with economic and social issues that rend the heart. It also means finding hope and inspiration in the authentic expressions of our citizens, youth, and artists for whom restrictive labels are not acceptable. Dickinson helps us ?dwell in Possibility.? She is honest, bracing, and refuses to be fooled. She situates Hope directly in the Soul, where we especially know it lives.
---Terry Blackhawk, InsideOut Literary Arts Project

Erin McCarthy as Emily Webb and her real dad, Mark McCarthy, as Mr. Webb rehearse a scene from Our Town with the Elm Street Players. Photo courtesy of Elm Street Cultural Arts Village

MEMORABLE EVENTS

I personally enjoyed The Big Read-A-Thon event the most. To witness one hundred local folks from all walks of life in our community come together to take turns, each reading a few pages from the book out loud in public until the entire book has been read cover to cover, is a simple yet deeply transformative experience that enriches the lives of everyone involved.
---Sean Reinhart, City of Hayward

The Big Read is important to us, too, because it is the one thing we do that truly has a multi-generational reach. What fun we had last week at our family game night! We had senior citizens teaching five-year-olds how to play marbles and jacks, and high school boys turning the jump rope for first graders. No electronics, no batteries required. Imagine 93 people from a small town out on a cold, snowy night, all playing the sorts of games Tom, Huck, and Becky knew and loved. It was really wonderful.
---Elizabeth Oliver, Fishtrap, Inc.

This year?s kick-off event was absolutely amazing. We had our largest crowd yet for a Friday at ten o?clock a.m. as 40 people and half as many dogs joined the mayor, other dignitaries, and special guest working dogs to celebrate the 2011 Big Read Boise and Beyond at a city dog park. We also had our largest media coverage, perhaps because the venue provided such wonderful photo opportunities. It was very lively and everyone who listened to the presenters also enjoyed watching the dogs frolic in their special Big Read pet bandanas. Perhaps the funniest moment was when one dog set up a howl just as the mayor was introduced---the mayor remarked that was the first time he has ever received such a welcome.
---Mary DeWalt, director of Ada Community Library

The NEA will announce the 2011-2012 Big Read grantees on July 7, 2011. Visit arts.gov that day for the announcement.

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