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Southern Miss Big Read Kickoff Events Oct. 13 and 14 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, October 09, 2009
Contact Tearanny Street, 601.266.6823   
HATTIESBURG, Miss.The University of Southern Mississippi will encourage a greater love for reading with The Big Read kickoff Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 4 p.m. at the Oak Grove Public Library and Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Southern Miss Museum of Art.

“The mission of the Big Read is to put literature in people’s hands and get them to remember why they love reading,” said Dr. Jeanne Gillespie, project director for The Big Read and associate dean for the College of Arts and Letters.

More than 600 communities nationwide participate in The Big Read as part of a larger initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to restore reading to American culture. A 2007 NEA report showed less than one-third of 13 year-olds are daily readers.

The college received an $11,875 grant from the NEA to host The Big Read for the second consecutive year. The project will run from Oct. 13 – Nov. 21 and include book discussions throughout the community and Southern Miss campus.

This year, Southern Miss is partnering with the Lamar County Library System to bring “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. LeGuin to surrounding communities. A precursor to Harry Potter, this book is about a young wizard-in-training and is required reading for students in all English 203 classes at Southern Miss this semester.

The Oct. 13 kickoff event will feature activities such as science demonstrations and music performances by two wizard-themed rock bands, “The Whomping Willows” and “Justin Finch-Fletchley.”

Southern Miss President Martha Saunders and College of Arts and Letters Dean Denise von Herrmann will speak at the opening event about the importance of reading and education to society.

“Reading for pleasure strongly correlates with academic achievement, and we believe the best way to improve reading habits is to entice young people with books that they find interesting and enjoyable,” von Herrmann said. “Le Guin's "A Wizard of Earthsea" perfectly fits the bill.”

On Oct. 14, Dr. Nicolle Jordan, Big Read scholar-in-residence and assistant professor of English at Southern Miss, will lead “Speaking of Earthsea: A Panel Discussion with Southern Miss Students and Faculty” at the university’s Museum of Art.

“The book is about so many things--sorcery, nature, language, community and self-understanding. Even if you don't know the story, you could come and learn about the fantasy world that Le Guin created and how much it teaches us about our own world," Jordan said.

The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest, along with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information about The Big Read, online visit

Two Big Read participants dressed like wizards participate in downtown Hattiesburg’s Art Walk to promote the book “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. LeGuin, which is the featured book for this year’s Big Read program at Southern Miss. (Submitted photo)

About The University of Southern MississippiThe University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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