OCCC Library sponsors NEA reading program

A book about racial oppression in the American South between the First World War and the Civil Rights Movement will be the subject of the next Big Read, sponsored by OCCC’s library during the month of October.

The 1993 novel by Ernest J. Gaines is called “A Lesson Before Dying.”

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts created to restore reading to the center of American culture, said Barbara King, Library Services director.

This is OCCC’s third year to participate in The Big Read, said Rachel Butler, reference librarian.

The National Endowment for the Arts developed the idea to encourage communities and libraries to come together and talk about the book they are reading, Butler said.

“The library has lots of copies of the book to give to faculty if they want their whole class to read,” she said.

The library received grant money from the Big Read National Endowment program that helped to purchase all the copies, she said. The grant also purchased printed Readers and Teachers Guides to go with the books.

The first year OCCC participated in The Big Read, Rose State College applied for a grant and asked OCCC to join them in reading “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.

The library had an Oklahoma State University professor from the journalism department talk about “Fahrenheit 451” and banned books during their first Big Read program, Butler said.

“We had really good attendance and lots of questions,” she said.

Cameron Rock, an OCCC accounting major, said he was excited when he learned that the program would feature “A Lesson Before Dying” this year.

“It’s one of my favorite books, so I think I will reread it during the Big Read,” Rock said.

The novel chronicles the relationship between two African-American men, one a local school teacher and the other an accused murderer.

Last year, the library queried Arts and Humanities professors to see which book they thought should be chosen for the next Big Read, Butler said. They chose “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett.

Butler said everyone benefits by participating in the group discussions during the Big Read program.

“Listening to someone else discuss what they noticed in the book, a strong point that the author was making, is really neat,” she said.

OCCC business major Nate Britten said he had not heard about The Big Read, but would like to learn more about it.

He said he had not read “A Lesson Before Dying,” but said he had heard great things about it from a friend.

For more information, visit www.neabigread.org.

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