The Big Read Comes to Kansas City

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) launched The Big Read in 2007, an initiative to bring reading back into the forefront of American culture. Now there are over 800 participating communities across the nation who have received grants to host the Big Read program.

The Big Read program is designed to allow people to read a single book that can be discussed at various events around their community with the goal that not only will they be inspired to read more, but also that they will pass on the joy of reading and discussing literature with others. The program is the NEA’s answer to the increasing decline of literary reading among Americans, especially the young. The Big Read uses book discussions, radio, internet, and TV to engage people to read and discuss the book of choice.

This year The Big Read is here in Kansas City. It is being sponsored by the NEA, the Kansas City Public Library, Park University, and The Central Exchange. Events start tonight at the Kansas City Public Library- Central branch, at 6:30 p.m. with Michael Dirda, a Pulitzer prize-winning book critic, introducing the chosen novel for this year, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. The NEA’s website offers this brief description of the book:

“Even avid readers will be hard pressed to find another novel quite like Marilynne Robinson’s luminous Housekeeping. Set in the remote, imaginary town of Fingerbone, Idaho, it presents the  precarious and eccentric lives of three generations of Foster family women. Housekeeping chronicles the deaths, abandonments, and insecurities that beset the Fosters so vividly that it is often heartbreaking, but the novel also radiates a mysterious joy and tender humor commensurate with Ruth’s childlike capacity for the sheer wonder of being alive.”

The Kansas City Big Read includes community discussions about the book, one of them being held at the UMKC Women’s Center on April 14 at 6:30 p.m.  The program also features a serial reading of the novel on KKFI 90.1FM that takes place April 5 – 23, as well as a webcast discussion held by Channel 9 morning news anchor Donna Pitman. And for those who can’t attend the discussion, there is a discussion group titled “Kansas City Big Read 2010” on the literary social website, Goodreads.  And last but definitely not least, the author herself, Marilynne Robinson will be at the Kansas City Public Library- Plaza Branch on May 12 to discuss the book and her writing career.

The Big Read is the excuse we all need to pick up a book and start reading again.

For more information go to:  www.kcbigread.org

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