Washington University receives Big Read grant from National Endowment for the Arts

St. Louis to read and celebrate *To Kill a Mockingbird* throughout January 2009

The Big Read is a national program designed to encourage literary reading by helping communities come together to read and discuss a single book.

In January 2009 Washington University in St. Louis — supported by a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts — will coordinate a St. Louis Big Read focusing on Harper Lee’s 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The month-long series of community-based events will include a wide variety of reading programs, read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, performances, movie screenings and other activities.

“The Big Read provides an opportunity to create, foster and participate in programming central to the University’s mission of promoting learning, transmitting knowledge and reaching out to the St. Louis community,” said Cheryl Adelstein, Washington University director of community relations and local government affairs. “Many organizations are already committed to being partners in this effort, which will broadly explore the themes of racism, civil rights and social justice highlighted in the book.”

Washington University is one of 208 institutions — representing 46 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands — to receive a Big Read grant for the 2008-09 academic year. The NEA also provides participants with free educational materials, including reader’s, teacher’s and audio guides.

Adelstein will coordinate local events with more than a dozen partner organizations, including the City of St. Louis, the St. Louis Public Library and the St. Louis Public Schools. Edison Theatre and Metro Theater Company will present a stage production of To Kill A Mockingbird, based on Christopher Sergel’s adaptation, Jan. 9 to 18. Other partners include the Regional Arts Commission, Fox-2 St. Louis, the Higher Education Channel, Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, Wesley House, the Anti-Defamation League of St. Louis and the Missouri History Museum.

In addition to Adelstein, The Big Read management team includes Charlie Robin, executive director of Edison Theatre; Carol North, artistic director of Metro Theater Company; and Victoria Gonzales-Rubio, Ed.D., retired principal of University City’s Delmar-Harvard Elementary School.

“Everything the NEA does we do in partnership,” said Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA. “Some are new to the program, some are returning, but all of them have answered the call to action to get our country reading again.”

In 2007 Washington University sponsored a Big Read focusing on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. More than 50 public events and 35 book discussion groups were sponsored in conjunction with five library districts, seven school districts, four museums and numerous arts and performing arts organizations. In all approximately 12,000 people participated.

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts — both new and established —bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for The Big Read is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Transportation for The Big Read is provided by Ford.

For more information about The Big Read visit www.neabigread.org. For more information and updates about St. Louis Big Read programs and events visit bigread.wustl.edu.