Southern Maryland Prepares For 'The Big Read' - Southern Maryland Headline News

Southern Maryland Prepares For 'The Big Read'



The Big Read program in Southern Maryland seeks to promote reading and literacy by spotlighting books and sponsoring activities around them.  The first selection is A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. The book was also selected for Oprah's Book Club.
LA PLATA, Md. (Jan. 23, 2008)—Southern Maryland is ready to launch a simultaneous conversation among the region's largest gathering of readers who will focus on one book, Ernest J. Gaines' "A Lesson Before Dying," as part of The Big Read. Kick-offs are scheduled in February for Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties followed by a number of book discussions, movie previews, performances and writing and art contests.

The activities are part of The Big Read grant, received by the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) in partnership with the public libraries, the public schools and the literacy councils of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, as well as with the Office of Aging in St. Mary's County, the Charles County Arts Alliance, Naval Surface Warfare Center-Indian Head, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southern Maryland, Southern Maryland Newspapers and the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.

"It's absolutely fantastic that the college has experienced such overwhelming support from our partners for engaging the Southern Maryland community in The Big Read of 'A Lesson Before Dying,'" said CSM Library Director Tom Repenning. "During the next several weeks, the residents of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties have a wide selection of programs and events happening close to their own homes in support of The Big Read, from book and film discussions, to live performances. Our hope is that everyone engages in this conversation."

The program is part of a nationwide effort of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read is designed to restore reading to the center of American culture by bringing together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

The latest Big Read grantees represent 38 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NEA inaugurated the Big Read as a pilot project with 10 communities in 2006. By 2009, approximately 400 communities in the U.S. will have hosted a Big Read since the program's launch.

Through the grant, books are available at each county's public library, the libraries at CSM's campuses in La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick, the library at St. Mary's College of Maryland, and at local bookstores, Bay Books, California; Fenwick Street Used Books and Music, Leonardtown; and Second Looks Books, Prince Frederick. Free reader's guides are also available for the public at locations throughout the region as well at all public libraries.

"The Calvert Library is always on board when there is a project to promote reading, literacy and lifelong learning," said Patricia Hofmann, director, Calvert Library. "The Big Read is an especially exciting opportunity for collaboration among the three counties and various outstanding partners. Wouldn't it be wonderful for every citizen of Southern Maryland to have the same book in common?"

"The St. Mary's County Library is proud to be a Big Read partner, especially when the book is as powerful and thought-provoking as 'A Lesson Before Dying.,'" said Kathleen Reif, director of St. Mary's County Library. "I know our community will be a better place after we all have read and discussed this work of art."

"We hope to reawaken the excitement, power and life lessons that a good book can hold," said Charles County Public Library Reference Supervisor Alison Sherwell, who added that books will be distributed during the library's kick-off.

Selected high school classes at Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's public schools will participate in reading and discussion of the book as will several English courses at CSM. Parents will be included in a Saturday seminar for high school students in Charles County, and various Big Brothers/Big Sisters partners will be reading and participating in book discussions.

"The Big Read project will expand the horizons of reading for our students," said Jane Hobbs, content specialist for reading for Charles County Public Schools. "They will be involved in reading a novel with their peers, parents and other adult readers. They will see the context and effect of the book on our society, and thanks to The Foundation for Public School Children of Charles County, they will get to keep a novel of their own."

Other groups participating with programs involving The Big Read include Nuran Miller Book Club, St. Mary's College of Maryland, St. Mary's County Department of Social Services and St. Mary's Ryken High School.

"The Big Read is a great opportunity to bring together several generations to read and discuss the valuable lessons they find in this moving story that transcends time. NSWC-Indian Head Division is pleased to participate and support such an effort of community unity," said Johnna Robinson, deputy EEO officer, NSWC-Indian Head Division.

Poets and young artists are also encouraged to be part of the action through an art contest for high school students and poetry contest for all ages that is being coordinated by CSM.

Art contestants will design a front book cover for "A Lesson Before Dying," with a winner to be selected from each county. The book cover should be no larger than 11-by-14 inches and can be in the medium of choice. The deadline for entering is March 22.

The Big Read in Southern Maryland writing contests invites poetry and essays in two age categories: youth, 17 and younger; and adult, 18 and older. Poems should reflect a personal journey that may start or end with a lesson before dying. Poems that spring from reading the novel are especially welcome.

Poets may submit one to three poems, each 24 lines or less. In the essay contest, entrants should submit a single essay. Youth entries should be 400-600 words and adults, 750-100 words, with the essay highlighting the writer's individual emotional growth as a result of reading "A Lesson Before Dying." The deadline for entry is March 17.

Specific details for the art and writing contests are available on the Southern Maryland Big Read web site http://www.csmd.edu/bigread/contests.html.

Performances April 4-6 will culminate the region's program, with the Charles County Arts Alliance sponsoring these in each county at which time winners of the writing and art contests will be announced. A dramatic staged reading of the play, based on the novel, will be directed by David Thomas.

The Big Read locally includes the following events, listed chronologically. Visit http://www.csmd.edu/bigread for information on local events or links to the NEA web site which provides additional resources and information about the initiative and book.

The Big Read Book Discussion. Feb. 4, 7 p.m., Calvert Library, 850 Costley Way, Prince Frederick. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. 410-535-0291.

Charles County Big Read Kick-Off. Feb. 10, 2 p.m., Charles County Public Library, La Plata Branch, 2 Garrett Avenue, La Plata. Launch will include excerpts from the book read by Marcia Keeth, acting director, Department of Economic Development, Charles County; stage set by Charles County Arts Alliance; light refreshments. Free. Emily Ferren, 301-934-9001.

The Big Read Kick-off. Feb. 12, 1:15 p.m., Leonardtown Library, 23250 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown. The Big Read kicks off in St. Mary's County as CSM Board of Trustee Janice Walthour reads excerpts from the selected book, "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. Free. 301-475-2846, Ext. 1007.

The Big Read Community Talk. Feb. 12, 8 p.m., St. Mary's College of Maryland, Campus Center, Cole Cinema, St. Mary's City. Discussion on race relations tied to the Ernest Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying" with Dr. James Early, director of Cultural Studies and Communication, Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies, Smithsonian Institution, Washington. Prior to his work with the Smithsonian, Early was a humanist administrator at the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, D.C., a producer, writer and host of "Ten Minutes Left," a weekly radio segment of cultural, educational and political interviews and commentary at WHUR FM radio at Howard University, and a research associate for programs and documentation. Free. 240-895-4381.

The Big Read Film & Discussion. Feb. 12, 9:30 a.m. to noon. Waldorf Jaycees Senior Center, 3090 Crain Highway, Waldorf. Showing of film based on the Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," followed by discussion. Natasha Miller, 301-934-9001.

The Big Read Book Discussion. Feb. 21, 11:30 a.m., Naval Surface Warfare Center-Indian Head, Auditorium. Command-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying." Open to Command employees, civilian and military families. Free. 301-744-4673.

The Big Read Book Discussion. Feb. 27, 11 a.m., Indian Head Senior Center, 100 Cornwallis Square, Indian Head. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. Lena Cox, 301-375-7375.

Calvert County Big Read Kick-Off. Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Calvert Library, 850 Costley Way, Prince Frederick. Launch will include excerpts read from the book "A Lesson Before Dying" and light refreshments. Free. 410-535-0291.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 3, 7 p.m., Charlotte Hall Library, 37600 New Market Road, Charlotte Hall. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. 301-884-2211.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 3, 7 p.m. Charles County Public Library, Potomac Branch, 3225 Ruth B. Swann Drive, Indian Head. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. Lena Cox, 301-375-7375.

The Big Read Movie Matinee. March 5, 12:30 p.m. Charles County Public Library, La Plata Branch, 2 Garrett Avenue, La Plata. Showing of movie based on the book "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest Gaines. Free. Megan Burroughs, 301-934-9001.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 6, 1 p.m. Richard R. Clark Senior Center, 1210 Charles Street, La Plata. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Jessica Austin, 301-934-9001.

The Big Read Movie. March 6, 6:30 p.m. Calvert Library, 850 Costley Way, Prince Frederick. Showing of movie based on the book "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. Free. 410-535-0291.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 8, 9:30 a.m., Charles County Public Library, P.D. Brown Memorial Branch, 50 Village Street, Waldorf. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. Phyllis Frere, 301-645-2864.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 10, 6 p.m., Lexington Park Library, 21677 FDR Boulevard, Lexington Park. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. 301-863-8188

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 10, 7 p.m., Calvert Library, Twin Beaches Branch. Call for location. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J.

Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. 410-257-2411.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 13, 7 p.m., Charles County Public Library, La Plata Branch., 2 Garrett Avenue, La Plata. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. Jessica Austin, 301-934-9001.

The Big Read Movie Showing. March 14, 3 p.m., Lexington Park Library, 21677 FDR Boulevard, Lexington Park. Showing of movie based on the book, "A Lesson Before Dying." Free. 301-863-8188.

The Big Read Movie Showing. March 14, 6:30 p.m., Charlotte Hall Library, 37600 New Market Road, Charlotte Hall. Showing of movie based on the book, "A Lesson Before Dying." Free. 301-884-2211.

Deadline: The Big Read Writing Contests. March 17, College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, Library Resources Building, 8730 Mitchell Road, P.O. Box 910, La Plata, Md. Deadline to enter The Big Read in Southern Maryland writing contests. Poetry and essays in two age categories: youth, 17 and younger; and adult, 18 and older. Poems should reflect a personal journey that may start or end with a lesson before dying. Poems that spring from reading the novel are especially welcome. Poets may submit one to three poems, each 24 lines or less. Essays limited to one entry per person. Youth entries should be 400-600 words and adults, 750-100 words, with the essay highlighting the writer's individual emotional growth as a result of reading "A Lesson Before Dying." Winners will be announced the first weekend in April. 301-934-7626. www.csmd.edu/bigread/contests.html .

The Big Read Movie Showing. March 18, 6:30 p.m., Leonardtown Library, 23250 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown. Showing of the movie based on the book, "A Lesson Before Dying." Free. 301-475-2846.

The Big Read Movie Matinee. March 19, 12:30 p.m., Charles County Public Library, Potomac Branch, 3225 Ruth B. Swann Drive, Indian Head. Preview of movie based on the book "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest Gaines. Free. Megan Burroughs, 301-934-9001.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 19, 2 p.m., Calvert Library Fairview Branch, 8120 Southern Maryland Boulevard, Owings. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. 410-257-2101.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 20, 2 p.m., Calvert Library Southern Branch, 20 Appeal Way, Lusby. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. Free. 410-326-5289.

The Big Read Book Discussion. March 20, 7 p.m., Leonardtown Library, 23250 Hollywood Rd Leonardtown. This is a library-sponsored book discussion of Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying," open to the public. It is led by St. Mary's College of Maryland English Professor Robin Bates. Free. 301-884-2211

Deadline: Art Contest for The Big Read. March 22, College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, Library Resources Building, 8730 Mitchell Road, P.O. Box 910, La Plata, Md. Deadline for high school students in Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's counties to submit designs of front book cover for "A Lesson Before Dying". The book cover should be no larger than 11-by-14 inches and can be in the medium of choice. Entries will be displayed and the winner in each county will be announced at the performance of the play in each county during the first weekend in April. 301-934-7626. www.csmd.edu/bigread/contests.html.

The Big Read Movie Discussion. March 24, 7 p.m., Leonardtown Library, 23250 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown. St. Mary's College of Maryland English Professor Dr. Robin Bates will lead a discussion on the movie based on the novel, "A Lesson Before Dying." The movie will not be shown. Free. 301-475-2846.

The Big Read Movie Showing. March 25, 11:30 a.m., Naval Surface Warfare Center-Indian Head Division, Auditorium. Showing of the movie based on the book, "A Lesson Before Dying." Open to Command employees, civilian and military families. Free. 301-744-4673.

Building Houses with Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food and Power, April 1, 7 p.m., Lexington Park Library, 21677 FDR Boulevard, Lexington Park. Several references are made to fried chicken in Ernest J. Gaines' book "A Lesson Before Dying" such as when Miss Emma brings fried chicken to Jefferson in jail saying "I knowed how much you like my fried chicken." Psyche Williams-Forson, assistant professor of American Studies at University of Maryland, will examine the complex role of the chicken in African American life, paying special attention to the connection between chickens and African American women. Program funded by the Maryland Humanities Council. Free. 301-475-2846, Ext. 1007.

The Big Read Performance. April 4, 7:30 p.m., Westlake High School, Auditorium, 3300 Middletown Road, Waldorf. Dramatic staged reading of the play, based on the book "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. Presented by Charles County Arts Alliance. Free. 301-392-5900.

The Big Read Performance. April 5, 7:30 p.m., College of Southern Maryland, Leonardtown Campus, Building A, Auditorium, 22950 Hollywood Road, Leonardtown. Dramatic staged reading of the play, based on the book "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. Presented by Charles County Arts Alliance. Free. 301-392-5900.

The Big Read Performance. April 6, 7:30 p.m., Calvert High School, Auditorium, 600 Dares Beach Road, Prince Frederick. Dramatic staged reading of the play, based on the book "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. Presented by Charles County Arts Alliance. Free. 301-392-5900.

The Big Read Book Discussion. April 17, 11:30 a.m. Naval Surface Warfare Center-Indian Head Division, Auditorium. Command -sponsored discussion of the book by Ernest J. Gaines' book, "A Lesson Before Dying" and the movie based on the novel. Open to Command employees, civilian and military families. Free. 301-744-4673.

Poetry Open Mic Night. April 28, 6-8 p.m., Lexington Park Library, 21677 FDR Boulevard, Lexington Park. The evening will feature original poetry based on individual reactions to the book. "A Lesson Before Dying." Poetry does not need to be entered into the writing contest to be read. Bring your poetry or just come and listen. Free. 301-475-2846, Ext.1007.

During 2008, the College of Southern Maryland will celebrate its 50th anniversary. A regionally accredited community college that provides programs and services with a special focus on local workforce development to maintain and grow a healthy economy and community, CSM has been recognized as the 2007 Employer of the Year by the Maryland Department of Aging and is a four-time recipient of the Workplace Excellence Award by the Alliance for Workplace Excellence. For information about CSM, call 301-934-7765 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7765 or visit www.csmd.edu.

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. For more information, please visit www.arts.gov.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. For more information, please visit www.imls.gov.

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