A 'Big' reason to read

September 11, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

For details about The Big Read and a complete schedule of events, go to

HAGERSTOWN - For one month, adults in Washington County will be asked to put down their remote controls, step away from their computers and pick up a book.

Area organizations are working together for The Big Read, a nationwide initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to entice adults to read. Washington County is one of 117 communities participating nationwide.

The Big Read will begin locally on Sept. 23 and continue through Oct. 21, said Kristy Smith, program assistant for the Community Foundation of Washington County Inc.


Officials said Monday that the book selected to be read locally is "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, and there will be activities, book discussions and special events to generate interest in the book and reading.

"Reading has made all of the difference to me in my life," said Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington.

He said he remembered reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" in high school, and said it left an impression on him. He encouraged everyone to read the book, even if they already have.

"It all starts with literacy," said Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. "It all starts with reading. And for a lot of people, it all starts with a great book like 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'"

The Community Foundation, the Washington County Free Library, Chamber of Commerce, Washington County Board of Education and other groups are partners in The Big Read.

Mary Baykan, executive director of the Washington County Free Library, said that the campaign is for children and adults. She said students are being encouraged to participate in an essay contest and other activities.

Martin Potash, supervisor of reading and English language arts for Washington County Public Schools, said that teachers at Antietam Academy are reading "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"It's for the whole community," Baykan said.

Smith said it's possible that if Washington County is chosen again, The Big Read campaign could become an annual effort.

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr issued a proclamation Monday declaring Sept. 23 through Oct. 21 as "Big Read Month."

He said that reading and learning are very important to the community.

"Reading is crucial to the economic and social progress in the community," Baykan said.

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