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I feel the need, the need to READ!

How neat would it be for an entire community to come together and celebrate one of America’s best-loved novels through plays, programs and other fun and interesting events?

Well, the Demopolis Public Library is preparing to do just that through an event called “The Big Read.”

“The Big Read” is a program sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment nationwide, especially among younger people.

“This is a grant project,” said Demopolis librarian Morgan Grimes. “Everyone in the community will read the same book, and the time for ‘The Big Read’ will be February through April 2010. You can read the book before then, which would be good, because during ‘The Big Read,’ you can go to book discussions and will probably know more about what’s going on. You can also read the book during ‘The Big Read.’”

The state of Alabama’s libraries are divided into nine regions, and each region is assigned a book for its participation in “The Big Read.” The region that includes Marengo County will be reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.

Libraries will be given grant money from the NEA to help with their participation in “The Big Read.”

“Libraries are required to have at least three events during ‘The Big Read,’” Grimes said. “One of those is a kickoff event to introduce the book to the community. A lot of times, they’ll have a local politician or a famous person from the community read the first page. You can make it as elaborate or simple as you want.

“We talked about having a mock funeral to kick off the event, but we haven’t made any definite plans yet. We’re still meeting with other libraries across the state to see what they’re doing.”

Other requirements for “The Big Read” are at least one book discussion and an ending event. Grimes said the library plans to incorporate the book discussion into its Reading Rendezvous reading club.

“The more events you have, the more people will come and get involved,” she said.

Some ideas that Grimes has thus far for “The Big Read” include picket fence displays at local businesses (whitewash is optional) and musical programs in the City Park through the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Sax in the City” program.

“Everything is still in the planning stages right now,” Grimes said. “The state is encouraging each library to start talking with its communities and start generating ideas and think about what we want to do.”

Grimes added that anyone who has any ideas for “The Big Read” can let her know by coming to the library or calling the library at 289-1595.

If you’re not familiar with “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” this is a great opportunity to read this timeless American classic. If you have read it years ago, it is a chance to re-read it for fun.

The biggest opportunity that “The Big Read” provides is another chance for Marengo County citizens to come together and have fun, with “Tom Sawyer” as the theme of this “party.” Reading is the basis for learning and knowledge, and this NEA program encourages people to get back in the habit of reading for reading’s sake.