Albany Times Union
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Recently a woman in St. Helens, Ore., thanked me for getting her son to read Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon." And a reading specialist at a low-income middle school told me about a kid who just couldn't believe a new copy of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" was really his to keep -- a story I've heard repeated, in different words, across the country. But a freelance opinion piece reprinted Feb. 29 in the Times Union ("NEA expands pleasure reading plan") called this "one-city, one-book" program from the National Endowment for the Arts silly and sentimental, and asked incredulously, "Who could be inspired?" That National Endowment for the Arts program is called The Big Read. It helps not just kids but whole cities and towns do successful one-city, one-book programs.
"Who could be inspired" by such "unobjectionable" writers as Hammett and Bradbury? Lots of folks, even a cynical ex-book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle like me. But don't take my word for it -- check out the Upper Hudson Library's District Big Read of "The Age of Innocence," which is taking place right now. The NEA encourages all people to help arrest and, ideally, reverse the American reading decline in any way they choose, but the Big Read is working.
National Reading Initiatives