By February 23, 2010 2 Comments Read More →

The Big Read: “The Help”

Ten libraries in the western suburbs of Chicago are currently sponsoring a “Big Read” program focusing on Kathryn Stockett’s deeply involving bestseller about life in the South in 1962, The Help.  They are urging community members to read and discuss the book together with family and friends by checking out “Book Club in a Bag” kits.  Each of the kits contains copies of The Help and a list of questions to energize the discussions.  Of course, they’re offering discussion programs held at the libraries, as well.

You can read about the libraries’ plans for this ambitious reading program that “seeks to connect communities through literature” by consulting their special web site.  They’ve put together a resource guide and a reading map, and they’re utilizing Twitter and Facebook to draw participants into the event.

I enjoyed looking at the Civil Rights time line and the pages on books, movies, and web sites related to The Help, as well as the pages headlined “About the Book, About the Author.”  Perhaps most interesting of all was the impressive lineup of programs related to the book, hosted at each of the participating libraries. 

 Over 25 programs have been designed to draw readers into the event, with topics ranging from Pie-making Techniques to Art of the 1960s: Pop, Funk and the Hairy Who. Also included:  a Jacqueline Kennedy impersonator; a “Mad Men” discussion about nostalgia and social change; songs of the Civil Rights Movement; a fashion show of dresses dating from Princess Grace to Twiggy; an exploration of Southern gardens; a talk about hub caps, hood ornaments and fins; a bicycle tour along the Natchez Trace; and a film festival featuring such classics as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Mississippi Burning.  Last but not least, the web site provides two additional resources: “Aibileen’s Reading List:  Books and Authors Mentioned in The Help,” and “The Help Play List: Music of the Times.”

If you’re planning a discussion program centering on The Help, you should definitely look into the extensive and creative work that these ten libraries have done in preparation for their event.  You can’t help but be inspired!



About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

2 Comments on "The Big Read: “The Help”"

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  1.' Becky says:

    Ted, thanks for highlighting our libraries. The Big Read has gotten better each year. The book choices are always good, but it is with the programming that we are able to get the communities excited about participating.

  2. We’re so glad that you’re inspired by our Big Read program. Thanks for the great information on this year’s Big Read! The link from your blog to the Big Read’s website doesn’t seem to be working. The address is if anyone would like more information. Programs at the ten libraries begin on March 1.

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