Thursday, February 28, 2008
Libraries across the county are stocking up on copies in anticipation of a spike in interest. Borders has a few dozen backordered. Salinas firefighters and Mayor Dennis Donohue have their copies already. It’s safe to say will be the hottest book in Monterey County this March.
The buzz surrounding the book is because of The Big Read, an annual event co-hosted by the National Steinbeck Center and the National Endowment for the Arts, intended to encourage reading. The month-long event came as an inspired response to an alarming 2004 NEA survey that reported the snowballing decline of reading in all age groups across America.
Ray Bradbury’s novel, a perennial best seller with over 5 million copies in print, will anchor the second annual Big Read, which includes 35 events all told, ranging from an animated installation exhibit created by CSUMB art students to Western Stage actors portraying the novel’s main characters to group reads.
Community involvement is contagious, according to Monterey librarian Kim Smith. “Last year [when the book was ] it was amazing how many people came into the library and asked for the book; during the height of The Big Read, all of our  copies were checked out.”
portrays a world where firefighters destroy books and human communication has broken down – emphasizing the preciousness of the written word. Smith says The Big Read will help locals realize those issues are relevant today.
Ruth Paget, Monterey County Free Libraries’ Youth Services librarian, feels event organizers will gauge the event a success if it helps people make reading a year-round habit.
“We’re trying to change behaviors,” she says. “You want reading to become part of people’s entertainment – not just a question of literacy.”