UTRGV’s NEA Big Read Grant helps promote literacy, literature

BY Special to the STar

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is recipient of a $14,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host the NEA Big Read during FESTIBA week.

The weeklong FESTIBA was created in 2006 to promote literacy and to foster a culture that appreciates and celebrates cultural arts.

An initiative of the NEA in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read is designed to broaden understanding of the world, our communities and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. UTRGV is one of 75 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant, to host a community reading program between September 2017 and June 2018.

The UTRGV NEA Big Read this year will focus on Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra. The kick-off will be at 10 .m. Feb. 26, in the UTRGV Performing Arts Center on the Edinburg Campus.

There will be other special events throughout March and into mid-April.

Professor Steven Schneider, principal investigator of the UTRGV NEA Big Read grant, said the program helps UTRGV promote reading and literacy through a variety of exciting programs on campus and throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

“This is my fifth NEA Big Read grant, and this year we are hosting award-winning Chilean author Alejandro Zambra, who will be featured at the Big Read keynote event during FESTIBA, noon, March 1, in the UTRGV Library on the Edinburg Campus.”

The UTRGV Big Read also is sponsoring 20 community book discussion groups and will give out 200 free copies of Ways of Going Home / Formas de volver a casa.

Two special film showings are scheduled – “The Battle of Chile” and “Neruda” – to be shown at the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, 6 p.m. March 6 and April 4.

“Through the NEA Big Read we are bringing contemporary works to communities across the country, helping us better understand the diverse voices and perspectives that come with it,” NEA Chairman Jane Chu said. “These 75 organizations have developed unique plans to celebrate these works, including numerous opportunities for exploration and conversation.”

The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect different voices and perspectives and aim to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is the grants program, which annually supports approximately 75 community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection.

The UTRGV Big Read is supported by two community partners – the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, under the direction of Letty Leija, and the South Texas Literacy Coalition, whose executive director is Dr. Ida Acuna.

All the events are free and open to the community.