Auburn University hosts kickoff event for The Big Read: Alabama Reads

AUBURN – A public reading of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain will kick off Lee County’s The Big Read: Alabama Reads program on Monday, Feb. 1, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Student Center at Auburn University. Featured guests for the event will include Georgia Supreme Court Justice and Auburn alumnus Harold Melton, Auburn mayor Bill Ham, Opelika mayor Gary Fuller and other members of the community.

“This is an opportunity for Auburn to support and join with others across the entire state of Alabama in the excitement of discovering and rediscovering ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and to promote reading for the sake of reading and self-empowerment,” said Paulette Dilworth, assistant vice president for Access and Community Initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “We’re doing this to bring attention to the need to restore reading to the center of American culture.”

According to a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, reading for pleasure and entertainment in America is declining rapidly among all groups, and the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among young people. The Big Read initiative strives to encourage reading by bringing communities together to read and discuss a particular book and offers reading programs, resources and information on authors and their works.

The statewide campaign, which is part of the national initiative, will run through April with events scheduled to take place throughout Alabama.

In addition to the kickoff event, the university will host a public lecture by internationally known Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 3 p.m. in the Special Collections lecture room at the Ralph B. Draughon Library. Gribben’s lecture will focus on “Ten Good Reasons to Read Tom Sawyer.” Other events include a scavenger hunt and public Lunch and Learn discussions.

“In ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ Mark Twain writes about childhood and place, two important markers in the U.S. culture,” Dilworth said. “‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ is a very youthful book. The characters are young, America is young and the Civil War has not occurred. This context provides the backdrop for a reading experience that draws from many themes.”

The Auburn event is cosponsored by Access and Community Initiatives, a division of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs; Ralph B. Draughon Library; Auburn Public Library; Alabama Library Association; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

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Contact: Paulette Dilworth, (334) 844-5042 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (