Albion Receives NEA Grant for 'The Big Read'

The community-wide effort took root in an Albion College classroom

UPDATE, June 9, 2015: More coverage on MLive

June 2, 2015 | By Jake Weber

The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and is managed by Arts Midwest.

Big ideas for the community have been rewarded as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has named Albion a Big Read grant recipient for 2015. Albion is one of only 75 communities nationwide to receive this competitive award, which will support a series of community reading events and related activities throughout October.

The Big Read grant proposal was written in fall 2014 by Albion College faculty, staff and students with the direction and assistance of a community-based steering committee. "I remember feeling wide-eyed," said recent graduate Madeline Drury, '15, one of three Albion College students who served on the committee and helped write the grant. "After many months of writing and rewriting, developing the programs and networking with other organizations, I had—and still have—a feeling of accomplishment and pride."

With the goals of empowering youth and encouraging community dialogue, the committee made the unique decision to have local middle and high school students lead book discussions. Those students will work with Albion College faculty and students throughout the summer to prepare for the Big Read, which will focus on the 1968 young-adult fantasy novel A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. As part of those preparations, the middle and high schoolers will attend a week-long workshop at Albion College through the support of a Youth Advisory Council grant from the Albion Community Foundation.

Albion College English professor and Big Read committee chair Jess Roberts will develop and lead the student leader training programs. Giving student leaders the ability to interact with the book over the summer will “deepen the impact of the Big Read and make it something that will, quite literally, expand the networks of people who support one another in this town," Roberts pointed out.

Madeline Drury, '15, and Tess Haadsma, '15
Madeline Drury, '15, and Tess Haadsma, '15 (foreground) got involved with Albion's Big Read initiative through English professor Jess Roberts' Practical Persuasion course.

"There is still a lot of work to be done," said Drury, who will assist Roberts with the student leader training this summer and with Big Read programming this fall. "I'm overwhelmingly excited to be part of a program that is centered on empowering youth, the value of reading, and bringing people closer together."

Albion’s Big Read program is deeply collaborative and would not be possible without the following institutions: the Albion Public Schools, the Albion District Library, the Albion-Homer United Way, the Albion Community Foundation, the Linda Kochinski Fund, the Youth Advisory Council, the Albion Rotary Club, the Bohm Theater, Kids ’N’ Stuff Children’s Museum, the Albion Chamber of Commerce, and, of course, the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. It provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss and celebrate one of 37 selections from U.S. and world literature. The NEA has developed high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, including reader’s guides, teacher’s guides and audio programming, all of which are available to the public on neabigread.org.

Learn more about Albion's Big Read at facebook.com/albionbigread and in the College's recent feature "The Bigger Read: A Powerful Partnership Makes Magic."