“The Big Read” is now officially underway, with contests currently open for those looking to try their hand at both the written word and at painting and drawing.
Culminating on May 4 with a “Movie in the Park” celebration, the reading program got kicked off this month with Tom Sawyer-themed poetry and poster contests.
Both contests will run from February 4 until March 31. Winners will be announced publicly during an awards ceremony on April 8 as part of a “Fun With Tom Sawyer” kickoff party at the downtown Stortytelling and Arts Center building.
“We will also have workshops to help people get started in the right direction,” SACS Director Jan Schmidt said.
Partnering to form the new community reading program, the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast and Scotland Memorial Library seek to use the literary classic, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” to bring the community together this spring.
Thanks to an $8,000 grant from “The Big Read” program, the partnering organizations have arranged a series of events all aimed at exploring and celebrating Mark Twain’s classic novel.
“It’s a fantastic book,” said Schmidt. “(Library Director Leon Gyles) selected a number of books from a list we were provided and this was one book that we both picked.”
Copies of Tom Sawyer are currently available at the library at no cost. They come in both a standard paperback version and in an “easy read” paperback version with simplified language and fewer pages.
Schmidt said that the “easy read” edition is ideal for young readers and those with reading difficulties.
On Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. until noon SACS will host a poster making workshop. Individuals aged 14 years and older are invited to attend, provided they are going to participate in the poster making competition.
“The workshop will have supplies there. People can finish a poster during the workshop or even take the supplies home and work on their poster,” Schmidt added.
Local artists Jennifer McRae and Carol Lee will lead attendees in designing their Tom Sawyer-themed posters.
A similar workshop aimed at facilitating writing for the poetry contest will take place the following Saturday, March 2 from 9 a.m. until noon at the SACS headquarters. Contest entrants aged 16 and older will be invited to attend the workshop, led by Martha Gibson.
Schmidt said that Gibson, a former director of the Scotland County Arts Council, will assist those in need of poetic inspiration.
“It is a great opportunity to learn and to share with others, all centered around (“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”),” commented Schmidt.
According to Gyles, “The Big Read” is exciting not only because of the community bonding that can occur over a great work of literature, but also because of the opportunity to promote literacy in the county.
As part of a series of events hosted by the library, Youth Services Librarian Denise Dunn said that there will be a number of opportunities to “celebrate” Tom Sawyer.
“There will be eco-crafts and discussions of the story, which we are looking forward to,” Dunn said.
Adding to the program’s educational component, students at UNC-Pembroke will study the book in preparation for a series of readings at area schools. Schmidt said that students studying education at the university will share Tom Sawyer with Scotland County students as part of their coursework.
Local book clubs have also been invited to assemble at the Storytelling and Arts center to discuss the book at the kickoff event in April.
“The is really designed to be an ongoing celebration,” said Schmidt, adding that “The Big Read” replaces a now-defunct community reading project which she believes is sorely missed.
“For our community, it really is wonderful. We used to have a community book project through (St. Andrews University), where they picked the book and public schools and book clubs would participate. It’s great to have something like that again.”
“The Big Read” poster contest has two divisions, one for students grades 8-12 and another for adults and college students. Each entrant is asked to submit one poster, no larger than 11 inches by 17 inches and no smaller than 8.5 inches by 11 inches. The poster may be made of paper, cardboard, canvas, wood or other materials and must include a theme related to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or Mark Twain. Any materials may be used but the posters may not include any offensive language or material.
According to the rules, all work must be original and the name of the artist must not be visible on the front of the poster.
The poetry contest also has two divisions. Each poem must be no more than 20 lines and must be related to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or Mark Twain. Poems may take any form, must be original and must not contain any offensive material. Just as with the posters, the entrant’s name must not be visible on the front of the submission.
Entries must be sent by mail along with the entry form to “SACS, PO BOX 2154, Laurinburg, NC 28353.” Posters will be judged based on originality, creativity, theme and artistic quality. Poems may also be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winning posters and poems will be published in The Exchange. Winning poems will also be read on WLNC Radio.
For contests rules and more information about the inaugural version of “The Big Read” in Scotland County, visit www.storyarts.info.