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The Big Read: Local Fun for a National Book Event

Each year the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) spearheads a program called the NEA Big Read.

It is a national initiative in which the NEA partners with Arts Midwest to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Since the program began in 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $19 million to organizations nationwide.

Locally, the Chesapeake Children’s Museum has been selected as one of 79 nonprofit organizations nationwide to present the NEA Big Read this year. The selected book is “The Big Smoke” by Adrian Matejka, a book of poems about Jack Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight Boxing World Champion.  

The museum is coordinating with community partners including every branch of Anne Arundel County Public Library to present book discussions and activities during African-American History Month in February, and through March 10, 2019—Harriet Tubman Remembrance Day. In addition to the main book, the events will incorporate books for children featuring Jack Johnson and other African-American firsts and notables.

“Jack Johnson’s life story has lessons of perseverance and determination, tests and triumphs that have the power to uplift us all,” says Chesapeake Children’s Museum director Dr. Deborah Wood. “The NEA Big Read is an opportunity for us to incorporate local history as well as African-American history in general within the context of the struggles facing Mr. Johnson in his courageous quest to personify excellence.”

For more information on the Big Read, visit arts.gov. To find local events with the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, visit theccm.org.

—Joyce Heid

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