Join a Community-Wide Book Club With the Big Read

January 2014

In an age of Kindles and iPad Airs and some nameless technology we haven't even heard of yet (that will be on its third model by year's end), I've clung to my books. There is something about opening an actual book for the first time and not knowing what awaits you, the experience of turning the page, of it beckoning to you from your nightstand. Though I no longer read every night before bed as I did growing up (sometimes, spending all day reading and writing articles at work means you just need to zone out with a little Modern Family—or, gasp, conversation—before bed), if I go too long without picking up a book or a magazine, I feel a hollowness. 

But there's a passion for reading and writing—and there's literacy, which allows you to satisfy that passion. And we need both for a smart and able community and society. Currently, we're not succeeding. In 2011, 26 percent of Colorado third graders scored partially proficient or unsatisfactory on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) literacy test. A CNN investigation released last week found, "...public universities across the country where many students in the basketball and football programs could read only up to an eighth-grade level." You can find other statistics that convey similarly disturbing trends.

Translation: It's important that both you and your kids make reading and writing a priority.

An easy way to start is to get involved with the Big Read, a nationwide program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts that starts later this month. Denver nonprofit literary center Lighthouse Writer's Workshop won a grant to host the program locally. The focus this year is Housekeeping by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson, a novel about belonging, family, and community.

"The goal is to get as many people reading the book and taking about it as possible," says Mike Henry, Lighthouse's executive director. To do that, Lighthouse has planned an extensive, multidisciplinary lineup of events, from January through April, including guided book talks, contests, collaborations with Swallow Hill Music,Wonderbound, and the Clyfford Still Museum, and more.

First up: a free kick-off event at the McNichols Civic Center Building on Friday, January 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Pick up a copy of the book, listen to excerpts performed by Stories on Stage, sign up for workshops, and enjoy light refreshments (there's a cash bar, too). Jamie Van Leeuwen, Governor Hickenlooper's deputy chief of staff, is the evening's speaker. Then sign up for the email list to keep up-to-date on what's happening. 

A way to be involved in your community, reintroduce yourself to the joys of reading, and maybe show others the importance of literacy? We can't think of a reason not to. 

Follow associate editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger