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BIG READ Initiative Seeks to Engage Readers and Address Literacy in Wayne County Communities

Detroit, MI — Through the efforts of its Youth and Family Educational Service Division, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to participate in The Big Read 2016. The NEA Big Read is a national literacy initiative designed to get communities engaged and excited about sharing a good book –  in this case, the Ernest J. Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying. 

The City of Detroit kickoff event will take place on Wednesday, January 20th from 4-7pm at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit.  The event will be a movie screening of “A Lesson Before Dying” which is based on the award winning novel by Ernest J. Gaines chosen for the Wayne Metro Big Read.  The movie has won 2 Emmy Awards and features a stellar cast including: Don Cheadle, Cicely Tyson and Mekhi Phifer.

Following the movie screening there will be a panel discussion about the movie and book, panelists will include: professors/instructors from Marygrove College, the University of Michigan (UM) and Macomb Community College and artists from and affiliated with the UM Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP).  The UM PCAP will have art work on display from its popular collection, as well as journals that will be available for purchase at the event.  There will be food and door prizes which include: gift cards, artwork and audiobooks. This event is geared toward mature audiences. RSVP today at:

A second kick-off event is scheduled on Monday, January 18th at the Barnes and Noble Books on Outer Drive in Allen Park from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. Activities will include coloring and story time of age appropriate children’s companion books to the Gaines novel. Barnes and Noble will donate 15% of purchases made that day in store and online. Mention WAYNE METRO BIG READ at the register or shop online at with the book fair code 11718194 from 1/18-1/23.  

Studies show that one in six adults across the nation have low literacy skills.  In metro Detroit, the number is one in three. The goal of the Wayne Metro’s Big Read is to encourage lapsed and reluctant readers of all ages to read through several admission-free creative events and reading activities. “Literacy is a key to unlocking the cycle of poverty,” said Mia Cupp the agency’s chief development and communications officer. “Low-income children have 50% smaller vocabularies than their higher income peers and low literacy has a negative impact on development and academic performance.”

The Wayne Metro Big Read will take place over five weeks, beginning with the Detroit and Allen Park kick-off events, with other activities taking place throughout Wayne County. For a complete list of events, visit and click on the Big Read.  The Big Read is supported in part by Detroit Free Press Gift of Reading, Fiat Chrysler Foundation, Junior League of Detroit, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Edibles Rex, as well as partnerships with Marygrove College, the University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project, Barnes and Noble and various libraries throughout Wayne County.

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