Cheryl Adelstein, an administrator at Washington University, has invited me to participate in the local version of a national civic literacy project called The Big Read. Among the things she asked me to do is to mention the program here.
Reading for pleasure is a declining practice in this country - according to a recent survey, less than half the adult US population now reads any literature (novels, short stories, plays, poetry) at all. I strongly support Washington University’s efforts to revive the habit, and I thank all their partners.
Here’s what Cheryl asked me to tell you:
Washington University in St. Louis, in partnership with the City of St. Louis and the local governments of Clayton and University City, library districts, school districts, including St. Louis City Public Schools, arts and literary organizations, and KTVI-Fox 2, is producing a multi-disciplinary program called The Big Read in February 2007. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. It is modeled on successful “city read” programs and is a national program designed to encourage literary reading by helping communities come together to discuss a single book. It brings the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens.
Lectures, readings, art exhibitions, theatre productions, book discussion groups and film festivals will be held in a variety of locations throughout St. Louis, all featuring the themes of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Programs will focus on censorship and repression of knowledge and will examine the role of the book, the printed word and literacy as essential ingredients in the development of citizens who are engaged in their communities and the pursuit of learning.