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Xavier awarded a ‘Big Read’ grant

23rd July 2012   ·   0 Comments

Xavier University of Louisiana has announced that it, in partnership with the New Orleans Public Library, has been awarded a grant to host The Big Read in New Orleans.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Xavier was one of 76 not-for-profits to be recommended for a grant to host a Big Read project between September 2011 and June 2012. The Big Read in New Orleans will focus on A Lesson Before Dying by acclaimed Louisiana writer Ernest Gaines, who also wrote The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Gathering of Old Men. Activities will take place February 23 and March 23, 2013.

“Providing our students and our fellow New Orleanians with opportunities to discuss Mr. Gaines’s book, to learn about the historical context in which it is set, and to think about its connection to their present-day lives will encourage literacy through NEA’s model of focusing on a single book within the community,” says Jason Todd, XU English professor and Quality Enhancement Plan Director.

NEA Chairman Rocco Landes-man said, “Since 2006, nearly three million Americans have attended a Big Read event, more than 39,000 volunteers have participated locally, and nearly 27,000 community partner organizations have been involved. The Big Read’s success depends on these commitments of time, energy, and enthusiasm and I look forward to seeing these 76 communities come together in celebration of a great work of literature.”

The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $17,000 to promote and carry out community-based reading programs featuring activities such as read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings, and performing arts events. Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, including Reader’s, Teacher’s, and Audio Guides.

The Big Read initiative fits into XULA’s ongoing Read Today, Lead Tomorrow program, in place since 2010. Read Today, Lead Tomorrow has been designed, in part, to foster the formation of literary communities and to make students more engaged readers by providing opportunities to think about reading material in the context of the greater world around them.

Xavier’s Big Read activities will include an opening-night ceremony honoring Mr. Gaines, an oral history project through which local high school students will interview local senior citizens about life under segregation and Jim Crow, essay contests for other students, a series of book discussions and related lectures, a film series of books by Mr. Gaines, and a closing-night ceremony celebrating the work and learning done by local students.

For more information about The Big Read, visit nea­big­read.org.

This article originally published in the July 23, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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