Thursday marks final page of ‘Big Read’ program

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister’s, and then almost with one impulse, the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!

— “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Chapter 17

On Thursday at 5 p.m., the Demopolis Public Library will hold a funeral of sorts, and the public is invited to attend.

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The funeral will commemorate the end of “The Big Read,” the statewide month-long literacy promotion project that invited the public to read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, but it isn’t “The Big Read” that will be buried, nor will it be Tom Sawyer himself. The funeral seeks to bury illiteracy.

“We’re going to read Tom Sawyer’s eulogy,” said Demopolis Public Library director Morgan Grimes. “Some students at the middle school are going to write it, and we’re going to read the best one.

“We’re going to read the last page of the book together and talk about ‘The Big Read’ a little bit, including how many times ‘Tom Sawyer’ was checked out of the library. It’ll be an open house, kind of like we did to kick off the event.”

Pickets painted by those taking part in the picket-painting contest are on display in the library, and will be put up in the city park downtown at a later date. Anyone with pickets may still bring them to the library.

“We’re encouraging people to dress in black; the staff is going to wear black all day Thursday,” Grimes said. “We’re going to wear big hats and possibly some black veils to set the mood. We want everyone to dress up, and if they have some, wear big hats or straw hats — and if the kids want to wear overalls and dress like Tom Sawyer, they can. People can even bring a flower to put by the casket if they want.

“It should be a great event for people of all ages to come and celebrate the book. We’re going to have refreshments available, and Mila Johnston is going to make some ‘river water tea’ for us. We’re going to have lemonade, punch and light refreshments. Not full-out funeral food, but we will have food here!”

Grimes said that The Big Read has helped to promote literacy and reading for fun in the community, and hopes for a big turnout to officially close out event and help bury literacy in Marengo County.

“Hopefully, it’s made people more aware of the importance of reading,” she said. “I know it’s brought people into the library, hopefully changing their opinion of the library and helping them to see that the library does have a lot of exciting things going on.”

For more information, call the Demopolis Public Library at (334) 289-1595.