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Programs planned for NEA Big Read!

Posted on June 16th, 2020

Several programs are planned as part of The Big Read program in East Central Illinois. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts that is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Booth Library at Eastern Illinois University received a $14,000 Big Read grant to support a community reading program during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The local NEA Big Read program will focus on the book “An American Sunrise,” by Joy Harjo, the first Native American to hold the position of U.S. Poet Laureate.

Local programs sponsored by many community organizations will take place between September 2020 and April 2021. The schedule of public programming this fall is as follows:

  • Big Read kickoff and keynote address, Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m., virtual presentation, “From Wilder’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to Harjo’s ‘An American Sunrise’: Words Matter,” presented by Dr. Debbie Reese, a former schoolteacher and assistant professor who is widely known for her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature. Reese will look at the story of Joy Harjo, who writes that in 1830 with “the American soldiers at our backs,” her people left their homelands for Indian Territory. Thirty-nine years later, Charles Ingalls took his family — including his 2-year-old daughter, Laura — from their cabin in Wisconsin to Indian Territory. Reese will talk about the works of Harjo and Wilder and ask that we consider how their words shape what readers know about the place called America and the people that call it home. This program is sponsored by Booth Library. To participate, click on this link in your Internet browser.
  • Tarble Reads virtual book discussion, Sept. 16, 5-7 p.m., via Zoom: “An American Sunrise” will be discussed. Free copies of the book are available. Please contact the Tarble Arts Center at or 217-581-2787 for information on how to participate online.
  • “A Peek Into the American Indian Way of Life Through Their History and Oral Traditions,” Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m., presented by Kim McIver Sigafus: This presentation will invite people into the world of the American Indian to discover what it once was to be Native, and what it means to be Native now. An Ojibwa, Sigafus will be dressed in her traditional Native regalia, and will present on Native culture through oral traditions, language, and history. She will discuss Native encampment life and will drum and sing an Ojibwa lullaby. This program is sponsored by Booth Library and funded through a grant from the Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau.
  • Book discussion, Dec. 1, 4-5:30 p.m.: EIU Buzzard Hall Room 1180: The Academy of Lifelong Learning’s Literary Divas book club will discuss “An American Sunrise.” For more information, contact the Academy at 217-581-5114 or email This program is limited to 10 people; pre-registration is required.

Anyone who would like a free paperback copy of “An American Sunrise” may contact Booth Library. The book will be provided to students in EIU English classes, as well as to high schools in the region through the Eastern Illinois Writing Project and Eastern Illinois University Teaching with Primary Sources initiatives.

Additional programs will be added to the schedule and will be updated on The Big Read website at For more information, contact Janice Derr, Big Read project director at Booth Library, at or 217-581-7555.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

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