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Monday, March 29, 2010

Milwaukee Area Hosts ‘The Big Read’

Program highlights Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild’

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We’ve all heard the names—Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charlotte Bront, Ernest Hemingway—but sadly many of us have not read the works. In fact, according to a 2004 report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), studies of the written word in America are declining across all ages. Perhaps even more disturbing is that the most dramatic backslide was evidenced in the youngest age groups, a population whose exposure to the classics dropped 28% between 1982 and 2002. In an effort to restore the literary canon to the forefront of our culture, the NEA created “The Big Read” program in select cities—including Milwaukee—by partnering with public museums and libraries across the Midwest.

Reminiscent of a book club, “The Big Read” aims to provide each community with a single book that people can read and discuss through events such as panels, forums and author readings. This year’s book is The Call of the Wild, Jack London’s classic tale of survival that takes place during the wild Alaskan gold rush of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This story of a strong-willed dog named Buck is a perfect novel for people of all ages to discover (or rediscover) the pleasure and enlightenment of literature.

Milwaukee has already hosted a number of events throughout the month to celebrate “The Big Read.” This week, both the Greendale and Bay View libraries answer the call. On March 29 at 4 p.m., the Greendale Public Library will hold a gathering for young adults to discuss this classic piece of literature in a conversation led by Ed Block from Marquette University’s English Department. Likewise, on March 31 at 6:30 p.m., the Bay View Library will provide a forum for bookworms to discuss The Call of the Wild.

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