Reading program would get everyone on same page

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The goal is to get the entire community to read and discuss the same book.

By April Wright, Reporter


“Read All About It,” a new community reading program sponsored by the Arts Council of the Twin Counties, encourages reading, fosters communication in the community and encourages self-expression through the arts and a series of other activities.
Read All About It encourages the community to read and discuss a single book at the same time. Activities to encourage people to participate will include brown-bag lunch discussions, local libraries hosting book clubs, a reenactment from the book and a themed art show at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts.
The program will focus on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee. Throughout February, the Arts Council of the Twin Counties will sponsor events based on the book.
The 1960 novel about a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature. It was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Read All About It is based on the national reading program, “The Big Read,” which sponsors community activities to encourage reading.
Laura Romanowski, director of the arts council, said the agency applied to receive a grant for The Big Read, but was unsuccessful. “So we decided to move forward with it and try again for the grant next year,” she said. “We want to get the entire area reading the book, from ages 12 and up — the age most kids start reading it in school. We’re going to schedule several events to coincide with everyone reading it. It’s going to be wonderful.”
Area churches will host several brown-bag lunch discussions, in which individuals bring their own lunch and the group will discuss a topic from the book. For those interested in forming or joining a book club based on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” they are asked to contact their local library to sign up.
“During January and February, it’s the dead of winter,” said Romanowksi. “Just driving can be dangerous, so reading is a great activity when you’re bound by the snow.”
Romanowski said this is a time when people can learn, rethink topics and challenge themselves, which can lead to a creative experience of the arts. The novel tackles the issues of race, class, justice and the pain of growing up.
“The idea is to get the community together and to get people talking about the same thing through discussions,” she said. “Everyone who picks up this book will find something new and personal, yet we’re talking about the same thing. It’s just remarkable.”
This program also brings a marriage of literature and arts.
The ninth grade Honors English students of Carroll County Intermediate School will reenact the courtroom trial from “To Kill A Mockingbird” at the historic courthouse in Hillsville.
An art show at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts is the grand finale to the reading program. People are encouraged to draw, paint, sculpt or use other mediums to create a piece of art inspired by the book.
The piece can be based on scenes people imagined or feelings readers had when delving into the book. “We want people to get creative,” she said. “We’re going to use a masterpiece of literature to create an artistic masterpiece, and then that may inspire someone else to think about the book in a way they haven’t yet.”
The pieces are to be brought to the art school between Jan. 27 and Feb. 11, and visitors to the school will vote for their favorite work in two categories: artists 18 an under and artists 19 and older.
A closing reception will be held Feb. 26, and gift certificates will be awarded to the winners.
Book clubs will be formed in January, and readers are encouraged to purchase and begin their book over the holidays, especially for those interested in being a part of the art show.
“The sooner you read the book, the more time you’ll have to think about ideas for discussion or the piece they want to create for the art show,” said Romanowski. “People can call their local library or local book store to see if they have it.”
Romanowski said she’s hoping the arts council will be awarded to host The Big Read, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, next year. The Big Read funds purchases of the books, marketing materials and free movie showings, along with other activities.
“We want to provide as many free opportunities as possible to get together and talk about the book,” she said. “We encourage people to read the book and watch the movie and talk about it as a family. It’s just a great family-night thing you can do.”
Because of the program, maybe individuals will be inspired to visit their local library for the first time or return after they haven’t bee in a while, said Romanowski.
“The library is an amazing place, and it’s time well spent,” she said.
The Arts Council of the Twin Counties will provide a schedule of events in the next two weeks.