The Big Read brings big books to Columbus again

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 11, 2012 

The Big Read is returning to Columbus.

The National Endowment For the Arts has awarded Muscogee County Friends of Libraries a $17,100 grant to help finance the event.

The Columbus group was one of 78 not-for-profit organizations nationally to receive one.

Atlanta and Brunswick are the only other Georgia cities in which a Big Read will be held.

This is the fifth time for Columbus.

"It is exciting news," Henry McCoy, marketing and programming coordinator for Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, said. The local Big Read will be in March 2013.

"It is aimed at getting people to read literature," McCoy said.

The Big Read provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature, such as "In the Time of the Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest Gaines.

The last Big Read here in October 2011, had local people reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

This time, the book will be Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," a collection of Vietnam war stories published in 1990. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

"It is an incredible book, one of the best written in the last 25 years," McCoy said.

The book, he said, is about much more than war. "It is about how people deal with memories and how memories can change," McCoy said.

Plans are already under way for the event. McCoy said reading the book will be part of the Columbus State University freshman experience.

CSU will host a literary festival in which the book's author will speak.

"Poe was a big success," McCoy said, noting that free copies of Poe's work went quickly. A film festival, a dramatic reading and other events were well attended and several schools had Poe projects.

"We may focus on just one book but we hope it get people to try other good books," McCoy said.

Besides the money, Columbus will also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title. Reader's Guides include author biographies, historical context for the book, and discussion questions.

Teacher's Guides are developed with the National Council of Teachers of English and State Language Arts standards in mind and include lesson plans, essay topics, and classroom handouts.

The NEA was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government.

To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities.

In a news release, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said, "At the NEA we know that the arts can help to create strong, vibrant communities by bringing people together. Through The Big Read, these 78 organizations are giving their communities the opportunity to share both great works of literature and memorable experiences."

The organization's Director of Literature Ira Silverberg said in the same release, "Whether you're reading a used paperback or a downloaded novel on an e-reader, nothing can beat the experience of getting lost in a good book. I look forward to seeing the creative ways these 78 organizations will use The Big Read to promote reading within their communities."

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