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‘The Big Read’ kicks off at the library

The month-long community literacy awareness promotion known as “The Big Read” got under way in Demopolis on Saturday with two big events.

The Demopolis Public Library hosted the kickoff event at 1 p.m. with several giveaways, including buttons, scavenger hunt information, reading guides, yard signs and free copies of this year’s theme book, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

Pickets were also given to those taking part in the picket-painting contest. Contestants are to paint their given picket in any way they want. The pickets will be lined up in the city park and judged for prizes.

Mark Twain himself made an appearance at the library as Robert Valentine, a senior lecturer in the journalism department at Murray State University in Murray, Ky., appeared as the book’s author.

At 1:30 p.m., Twain read the ceremonial first page of the book to get the “Big Read” festivities under way. At 7 p.m., Valentine gave a one-man performance as Twain, talking about Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and aspects of his life along the river.

“If you don’t live on the river, you can’t understand what it is to live in a small town,” he said during his performance, words that ring true to the many people who live in a town along the Tombigbee and Black Warrior rivers.

“The Big Read” is a statewide literacy awareness program that encourages people to read or re-read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” a story that has been called the most American of novels. It is a way of motivating people to read for fun, to share what they read with their friends, family and neighbors and to have fun with it through the events lined up by the libraries statewide.

The program is funded through a grant provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, and is supported locally by the Friends of the Library. For more information, contact the Demopolis Public Library at (334) 289-1595.