October 3, 2007

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Monthlong Reading Celebration Begins October 14

VALDOSTA - The Big Read, a monthlong reading celebration, kicks off Sunday, October 14, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at John W. Saunders Memorial Park, 1151 River Street.

Dr. Philip Gunter, Dean of VSU's Dewar College of Education, and University Attorney Laverne Gaskins will read excerpts from Zora Neale Hurston's novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” at the celebration. Hurston's 1937 masterpiece, which chronicles a black woman’s journey to selfhood, was selected for community-wide readings and film viewings from October 14 to November 10.

“VSU played a major role in securing the grant we needed to bring about the Big Read and in programming celebration events throughout Valdosta,” said Emily Rogers, Assistant Professor and Reference Librarian for Instruction at Odum Library. “We are hoping this event will further community-campus partnerships and remind people why they love to read.”

Valdosta Mayor John Fretti will launch the kick-off event by proclaiming the official opening of The Big Read in Valdosta. The Big Read is a national program to promote literary and reading and is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. Valdosta is one of 117 communities across the United States chosen to participate this fall.

College of Education Instructor Nadine Whitfield will serve as the mistress of ceremonies for the kick-off, which will feature musical performances, dance teams, readings of fiction and poetry, and a children’s bounce house. College of Education Professor Brenda Dixey serves as the program manager for the Big Read in Valdosta.

“We are so excited about the variety of events for children and adults alike to share reading experiences,” Rogers said. “There is something very special about reading the same book and celebrating an author with an entire community.”

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Library, 300 Woodrow Wilson Dr., will host a children’s festival from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on November 3. The event will feature award-winning children’s author, Joyce Carol Thomas, who has weaved some of Hurston’s work into her books, including “The Six Fools.”

Theater students from VSU's Department of Communication Arts will perform readings from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” at 7 p.m. on October 26 in the Odum Library Auditorium.

The Big Read will also host Valerie Boyd, the author of “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston,” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 10, in the University Center Magnolia Room. The Assistant Professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, and former arts editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will speak about Hurston’s life and work and the importance of experiencing such literature. Boyd’s address and other events promoting the Big Read are free and open to the public.

Rogers said area libraries and churches are holding book discussion groups that will feature Hurston’s novel. Information about such groups can be found on the Odum Library Web site at http://www.valdosta.edu/library/about/bigread.shtml .

Partners for the Big Read in Valdosta include Valdosta State University's Odum Library, Dewar College of Education, Theatre Department, Athletics Department, and the Master of Library and Information Science Program; Moody Air Force Base; South Georgia Regional Library System; Valdosta City Schools; Hildegard's Café; and the City of Valdosta. The Big Read for military communities is made possible by The Boeing Company, “no federal endorsement implied.”

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