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Martinsburg library hosts activities for The Big Read

September 15, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Michael Austin teaches English at Shepherd University, so when he had a few free minutes Saturday, he chose to drop by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library with his two children.

What he encountered was the latest activity of The Big Read, a nationwide push to get adults to do more reading through a program initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts.

"We just discovered this by chance," Austin said. His daughter, Clarissa, 6, worked long and hard creating a Chinese paper dragon, while her older brother, Porter, 9, was content to watch.

Saturday's activities centered around the culture described in great detail in the award-winning book "The Joy Luck Club," the Eastern Panhandle's choice in The Big Read project.

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"We are encouraging people to tell of their families," said Margaret Demer, director of branch services for the library.

That can be achieved through photography, drawings, paintings, memoirs, short stories or poetry, Demer said.

The Amy Tan book was chosen because it is a series of short stories tied together in the book.

"Family stories need to be passed on," Demer said. "Children need that - it's exciting because every family has a story to tell."

Some of those stories will be put together in a booklet when the project ends.

Teachers are being asked to involve their students in the project, too, Demer said.

"A teacher at Musselman High is already doing it with her students ... reading the book and writing essays," she said.

On hand for the kickoff Saturday morning were Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, library board President Mary Boyd Kearse and Mary Jo Brown who was representing West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.

George Oliver writes a food column and created some dumpling dishes for those who attended, Demer said. There also were some Chinese desserts prepared by the Peking Restaurant.

Sam Stilwell and Koko Blue played on the plaza in front of the library Saturday afternoon.

The concluding event for The Big Read is scheduled for November.

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