MONROE - It may not become as popular as the iPhone, but paperback copies of Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey will be in the hands of reading enthusiasts from Temperance and Petersburg to Carleton and Monroe over the next few weeks.
The Big Read, a project of the National Endowment for the Arts to revitalize literature's role in American culture, begins this week in Monroe County.
Monroe County Community College is sponsoring the project with the help of nearly a dozen community groups, schools, and civic leaders.
The selections for 2010 are Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the story of several unrelated people on a bridge in Peru when it collapses, and Wilder's play Our Town.
This is the fourth year that the community college landed a NEA grant, one of nearly 270 awarded to arts, culture and science groups, libraries, and cities throughout North America. The $18,000 grant paid for books and other events in the monthlong program. The community college is providing more than $32,000 worth of services and support.
Besides reading Wilder's works, special events are planned all month. Children will be turning old books into works of art. Library branch book clubs have scheduled discussions of The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and the Monroe Community Players are to give a performance of Our Town.
There also will be an art show and panel discussions focusing on the books.
Beth Kohler, coordinator of grants and major gifts at the college, said the goal is to instill reading as a great pastime and to explore ideas, themes, and topics as a community.
The project last year in Monroe County was The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ms. Kohler said more than 3,000 residents took part in activities focused around the book. "We have seen interest in The Big Read steadily grow year to year," she said.
The community college has purchased 1,125 copies of The Bridge of San Luis Rey and distributed them to students in schools throughout the county. Many more residents are expected to borrow the 260 books that were placed in library branches.
"We are encouraging people to get a free copy and pass the book on so as many people as possible can read the book," Ms. Kohler said.
Festivities centered on The Big Read are to begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Monroe County Community College.
•Our Town is to be performed at 8 p.m. March 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. March 28 at the community college's Meyer Theater. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and children.
•A film festival featuring The Searchers will be at 7 p.m. March 30 at the community college's La-Z-Boy Center.
•Book club discussions are April 1 at 10:30 a.m. in the Bedford Branch Library, 8575 Jackman Rd., Temperance, and at 4 p.m. in the Ida Branch Library, 3016 Lewis Ave.
•More book club discussion are scheduled April 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Newport Branch Library, 8120 North Dixie Hwy.
•A teens-only program to create "altered book themes" from The Bridge of San Luis Rey or Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why is scheduled at 2 p.m. April 7 in the Dundee Branch Library, 144 East Main St.
On the same day, book discussions are at 5 p.m. in the Monroe Senior Center and at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue Bush Branch Library, 2210 Blue Bush Rd.
Also that day, a film festival featuring Land and Freedom and a talk by film critic David Walsh are scheduled at 7 p.m. at La-Z-Boy Center.
•A teens-only program is at 2 p.m. April 8 in the Navarre Branch Library, 113 East Second St.
•An event for parents and children to read and build bridges is at 1 p.m. April 10 at the Arthur Lesow Community Center,
Also that day, winners of the juried art show are to be announced at 1 p.m. in the Ellis Reference and Information Center, 3700 South Custer Rd., Monroe.
•A book club discussion is at 7 p.m. April 12 at the Erie Branch Library, 2065 Erie Rd.
•A Journey to Peru, featuring a talk by Joanna Sabo, is at 7 p.m. April 7 in La-Z-Boy Center.
A book club discussion is at the same time at Frenchtown Library, 2881 Nadeau Rd., Monroe.
•A book club discussion is scheduled at 7 p.m. April 14 in the Bedford Branch Library.
•A book club discussion is at 10 a.m. April 15 in Bedford Senior Center, Temperance.
A brown bag book discussion is at 12:30 p.m. the same day in La-Z-Boy Center.
Also April 15, a film festival featuring Persepolis is set for p.m. in Meyer Theater.
•Book club discussions are April 26 at 1 p.m. in the Robert A. Vivian Branch Library, 2664 Vivian Rd., Monroe, and at 7 p.m. in the Carleton Branch Library, 1444 Kent St.