Read and celebrate the poetry of Emily Dickinson during The Big Read

SUNY Fredonia, as lead agency with the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Library System, has received a grant of $15,000 to host The Big Read in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts managed by Arts Midwest, is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

Fredonia is one of 77 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host a Big Read project this academic year, and will focus on the Poetry of Emily Dickinson. Activities will take place from Saturday to April 30. For a calendar of events and other information, visit

The first two events include a meeting of the Barker Library Book Club, which will be holding a discussion of Emily Dickinson’s poetry on March 8 at 2 p.m. The discussion is open to the public and refreshments will be served. The library is located at 7 Day St., Fredonia. On March 15 at 10 a.m., a Family Story and Poetry Event, including a story time followed by a craft/activity, will be held at the James Prendergast Library, 509 Cherry St., Jamestown.

The Big Read comes to the region through a unique partnership between SUNY Fredonia and the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Library System, Fredonia faculty, staff and students, and the SUNY Fredonia Academic Community Engagement Center, along with the Erie I Board of Cooperative Education Services, local schools, the Fredonia Faculty Student Association, the Fredonia College Foundation and the Reg Lenna Center For The Arts.

“Participation from a wide variety of organizations makes the Chautauqua/-Cattaraugus Big Read partnership possible,” noted Randy Gadikian, director of the Daniel A. Reed Library at SUNY Fredonia and chairman of the Chautauqua/-Cattaraugus Big Read. The Big Read’s mission is to create an enthusiastic community book discussion that spans ages, ethnicities, education, and geography through community events, performances, talks and book groups. Starting in March, events are planned throughout Chau-tauqua and Cattaraugus county libraries, schools and homes. Book clubs are encouraged to participate.

Eli Guinnee, managing director of the Chautauqua/-Cattaraugus Library System, believes that libraries are traditionally a place where people come together to learn about the larger world and shared human experience. “By collectively reading and discussing great works such as Dickinson, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves as individuals as well as those around us,” says Guinnee. “Libraries are uniquely situated to facilitate the kinds of collaborative learning and community connections encouraged by The Big Read.”

The Big Read supports organizations across the country in developing communitywide reading programs, which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

The NEA inaugurated The Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with 10 communities featuring four books. The Big Read continues to expand to include more communities and additional books. To date, more than 1,000 grants have been awarded to communities in the United States to host Big Reads since the program’s 2007 national launch.

NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa said, “It’s wonderful to see that these 77 communities are making reading and the celebration of books a priority. I look forward to seeing the innovative ways they find to engage their communities in these great works of classic and contemporary literature.”

For more information about The Big Read, visit