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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

WUMB to Celebrate ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

UMass Boston’s radio station, 91.9FM WUMB, was named one of 127 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture, higher education and science organizations to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, as a part of their Big Read program.

From January to June of 2008, WUMB is holding celebrations of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, one of 16 classic novels in the program, with the kick-off event scheduled for Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. on the 11th floor of the Healey Library. WUMB is one of 22 organizations to host community-based programming on Lee’s novel.

“We get involved in different community service projects every year,” Pat Monteith, General Manager of WUMB, said. “I saw the grant request for proposals for the NEA and put in an application. We were notified a few weeks ago.”

WUMB received a grant for $20,000, the maximum award the NEA was giving. As part of the project, the radio station was able to choose the book around which they wanted to plan programming.

“We had an online survey going around during the summer,” Monteith said. “We asked people which book they thought we should take, and To Kill a Mockingbird came overwhelmingly in first.”

They have several partners in planning their events for the six-month program, including UMass Boston’s Healey Library, South Boston Boys and Girls Club and the Labouree Center.

“There’s a variety of programming that we’re trying to make final,” Monteith said. “We’re planning on handing out free copies of the book, holding book discussions, showing the movie, holding an art contest for students to create pieces inspired by the book and a songwriting contest for students based on themes from the book. During the first or second weekend in May, we’re going to have a Mockingbird Fest, which will be a daylong series of events. Also, the Trotter Institute is planning a panel discussion on the novel.”

The NEA began the Big Read program in 2006 as a pilot program, with 10 communities holding events centered around books. The program not only reaches 127 communities in the U.S., but also 26 military installations around the world. There is also a cross-cultural Big Read with Russia, where four communities in the U.S. will read Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and two regions in Russia will read To Kill a Mockingbird.

“In just two years, the Big Read has grown from ten communities to include nearly 200 towns and cities nationwide,” NEA chairman Dana Gioia said in a press release. “Although each of these communities celebrates its Big Read program in its own way, one theme we consistently hear back is that the Big Read is not just bringing citizens back to the joy of reading, but also reinvigorating the very idea of community.”

The Big Read program is planning another session to last from September 2008 to June 2009, and Monteith said that if it looks like their January to June programming is getting enough interest, WUMB will apply for a grant for the next session.

“This program is all about literacy,” Monteith said. “It’s about making sure that people don’t just look at computer screens and play games all day. [This country] can’t afford to lose reading for pleasure.”

The Classics, according to the NEAAlong with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the novels in the Big Read are:The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckBless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo AnayaThe Call of the Wild by Jack LondonThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullersFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyMy Antonia by Willa CatherA Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. GainesThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Joy Luck Club by Amy TanThe Shawl by David MametThe Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo TolstoyA Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayThe Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton