I haven’t read Tom Sawyer since, well…a really long time ago, but I’m reading it again now. The impetus for dusting off my copy is a community-wide reading affair based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Our twin cities of Yuba City and Marysville are participating in the national Big Read project, which provides grants to communities to help inspire people to pick up a book, to fall in love with reading.
Our local arts council chose Mark Twain’s classic ‘bad boy’ book, in which Twain reminds adults that children are not angels, but fellow human beings, and perhaps all the more lovable for their imperfections and bad grooming. To get people familiar with the story, The Yuba Sutter Arts Council is having a Kick Off this Sunday (Jan. 31st) with ongoing readings of some of the more famous episodes.
There will be Aunt Polly’s Pie-Eating Contest, banjo playing with songs of the Tom Sawyer era. Free copies of the book, including a young reader’s version will be available, as well as the Teacher’s and Reader’s Guide for educators. There’s crafts, a pirate’s cove and a treasure chest for kids. Then folks can pose with our life-size cutout of Mark Twain, play hopscotch and marbles.
A truly old-fashioned community affair!
And that’s just the Kick Off! For six weeks, schools, libraries and book clubs will be reading and discussing the book. The will be storytimes, scrapbooking projects and a women’s history tea where the women in Mark Twain’s life have agreed to make a reappearance.
It’s a unique project, trying to get a whole community all focused on the same book and using elements within the story for such a wide variety of activities. Since I love reading and would love to see it’s revival, I have become even more passionate about this project in a town where the only two bookstores are going out of business. B. Dalton in the Mall and the lovely used bookstore, Amicus Books are both closing their doors.
According to the NEA report (2008), reading is on the rise again reversing two decades of downward trends. This is good news, but I’m not sure how we will revive reading without bookstores and with libraries strained with budget cuts.
But I’m forever an optimist. One of America’s greatest treasures is our ability to be innovate. There must be more ways to strengthen the connection between kids and reading.
I’m hoping our Big Read project will be the start for our community.
What are your thoughts? What can we do to help revive the love of reading?