About the Program
Book Selection. The chosen book isThe Big Read text, Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories. It will appeal to readers of all ethnicities and provide an excellent opportunity to introduce the region to Hispanic culture and Mexican literature through a variety of activities.
Program Plans. To engage residents of the region in The Big Read, programming will include theatrical performances, visual arts, music and dance, children’s activities, and speakers and a series of facilitated discussion groups. The intent is to appeal to all types of readers, and ethnicities, throughout southwestern Indiana with a diverse mix of programming. The programming will begin with a kick-off event from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 21 at Central Library and end in a celebratory activity on Cinco de Mayo.
Dr. Jorge Chapa, director of the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will be The Big Read keynote speaker on May 5. Dr. Chapa has many publications reflecting his research focus on policy issues pertaining to Latinos and other groups with low incomes and educational levels. .
University of Southern Indiana is supporting The Big Read through a service-learning opportunity for students. Students in the University’s spring 2010 Rhetoric and Composition courses will read the book and be trained as discussion leaders for sessions throughout the region. Dr. Dominic Micer, a program co-director, will instruct and engage the students in his service-learning courses, and Dr. A. David Hitchcock, assistant professor of Spanish, and Dr. Manuel Apodaca-Valdez, assistant professor of Spanish, will recruit students in Spanish classes to also participate. The students will lead discussion groups at a variety of locations throughout the region, including public library branches throughout Evansville; regional centers for Hispanic services; public schools throughout the region; Evansville’s Children’s Museum; inner-city and community service agencies, and bookstores -- some discussions augmented with appropriate activities for audiences.
University theatre students in Performing Arts have written and are helping direct a performance based on at least one of the stories in the book as another service learning project.
Michael Aakhus, an artist and professor of art who focuses his work on Mexican and Central American cultures, is organizing an art exhibit of Mexican art. The display will include 30-40 pieces, many strongly influenced by magical realism, as well as Mr. Aakhus’ travels in Central America. The exhibit will be on display at Central Library throughout The Big Read events.
The Hispanic Folk Dance and Sabor Latino groups will perform several times during the seven weeks of The Big Read. These performances will include an introduction to the book, as well as an opportunity to distribute Reader’s Guides and copies of the book. A mariachi band will entertain at the concluding event.
Children’s activities, including arts, crafts, and readings, will be offered to encourage families to attend at many sites, and then parents will be introduced to the book, and provided a Reader’s Guide and schedule of additional Big Read events.
Audience. The programming for The Big Read in southwestern Indiana is designed to appeal to the community-at-large. By selecting a book of Mexican short stories for a community which is predominantly White and non-Hispanic, we believe we will reach a mix of readers. The additional programming is designed to appeal to both active readers, as well as those who might not initially consider reading the book, but will attend a cultural event to learn more about Latino culture. This will provide an opportunity to engage these people in reading the book, or at least one of the short stories, and to participate in discussion groups throughout the area. In addition, by including the book as a focus of University service-learning activities, it is anticipated that the book will reach 50 to 150 University students. This approach builds on a recent campus project in which several USI faculty conducted and publicized a needs assessment of the local Hispanic community.
Reaching Lapsed and Reluctant Readers. The planning team sought partners who have established programs and services used by lapsed and/or reluctant readers, and we will offer discussion groups, dramatic readings, and other programming in these locations. For example, the Juan Diego Center is an outreach center for the Latino Community in Evansville. Hosting programming in this location will provide a “safe” location for Hispanic residents to engage in the activities, including the discussion groups. The Guadalupe Center in Jasper, Indiana, about one hour from Evansville, will be another site.
Program Staffing. The Big Read Program co-directors are Dr. Dominic Micer, the English professor preparing students to lead the discussion groups, and Dr. Anne Statham, the director of Service Learning at the University of Southern Indiana. The Office of Service Learning at the University is providing logistical/program support through the work of its director and student workers. The planning team, which initially included three representatives from our library partner, Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library, and the director of HOLA, a local non-profit focused on cultural diversity and inclusion of Latinos in southwest Indiana, are committed to supporting The Big Read throughout the project.