The event, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and continuing with related activities through Nov. 15, is designed to help revitalize the role of literature in American society by encouraging people to read more books.
"As you can tell by the crowd gathered here, people aren't much into reading anymore," said Senior Dean of Information Technology and Services Cherry Li-Bugg. "We need to get back to the basics. We need to change that."
The sparse attendance didn't discourage the 13 readers, who enthusiastically read excerpts from the classic Harper Lee novel "To Kill A Mockingbird," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Lee's novel has sold over 30 million copies, been translated into 10 languages and cited as one of the most influential books ever written.
Eddie Hart, Sr., 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist in track and an African-American, prefaced his turn at reading by saying, "You have to be very careful when you present this book to black people." He referenced the book's graphic language and description of discrimination against blacks that many Southerners exhibited during the Great Depression. Hart is founder of the Eddie Hart All In One Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth become successful.
Another reader was Leanne Holbrook, author of "Victoria & The Door To Travarmis," a novel she likened to the Harry Potter genre. "The Big Read is important because reading in today's families is completely diminished," she said. "My parents encouraged me to read. Parents and even educators often overlook this vital need."
According to Liberty Union High School District Superintendent Dan Smith, "Whatever we can do to promote reading by our students and the public is well worth any efforts we might make."
The Big Read calendar of events will continue through Nov. 15 with a series of discussions, movie screenings, a play, a writing contest open to everyone, and a finale in which iPods and MP-3 player prizes will be awarded to contest winners.
The Big Read Calendar of Events can be obtained at local libraries as well as the Los Medanos Library at 2700 East Leland Road in Pittsburg. For more information, call LMC Big Read Coordinator Mary Oleson at 439-2181, ext. 3130, or visit www.los medanos.edu.