To help youth participate more fully in society and the workplace through reading, Eastern has joined 78 other not-for-profit institutions and organizations nationwide in an effort to restore reading to the center of American culture. The Big Read Project, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), seeks to enhance literacy abilities by raising public awareness of reading. The kick-off event on Sept. 18 in the Betty R. Tipton Room featured Eastern President Elsa Núñez and other dignitaries and scholars.
"Reading is perhaps the most fundamental academic skill we can give young people, for without reading, you cannot work on any other academic subject," said Núñez. "Reading is not only the key to our intellectual development and career success, literature provides a richness of experience and perception that brings a much larger world to us than we are capable of experiencing on our own." Other kickoff speakers included Patricia Banach, director of library services at Eastern; Ann Anderberg, assistant professor of education at Eastern; Lucy Ferriss, Writer-in-Residence at Trinity College; and Denise Merrill, Connecticut Secretary of the State.
With a $14,900 NEA Big Read grant, the University has partnered with libraries, public schools, local and state officials to engage in discussions, lectures, public readings and theatrical performances over the fall semester. Eastern's grant focuses on English language learners in Willimantic, which has a large Latino population. (Below, Jaime Gomez, interim dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies, and Carmen Cid, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, talk about the Big Read on Access TV Channel 14's "Homefront" show, hosted by Eastern Adjunct Faculty Member John Murphy.)
Hope Marie Cook, associate librarian and coordinator of Eastern's Big Read program, wrote the award-winning grant proposal. "Patrons of libraries in Windham County and Willimantic, along with community members, have a deep appreciation for, and interest in, the cultural beauty of the Hispanic population, its history, values, beliefs and literature." Cook said Eastern and the surrounding community is responding enthusiastically to the selection of the Big Read book, "Sun, Stone and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories" because of its rich cultural beauty, relevancy and programming flexibility. For a listing of Big Read programs, visit www.easternct.edu/universityrelations/bigRead.html.