Wake-Up Call: Boo!

Read between the lines: The rationale behind the city's vote for the next One Book, One Denver selection became clear yesterday, when the Department of Cultural Affairs revealed that the city had received a $20,000 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

That NEA program is designed to promote reading and literacy -- and it just so happens that the list of 27 possible books Denverites got to vote on earlier this month -- essentially the greatest hits of American lit -- are all part of the Big Read. That explains the lack of any kind of Colorado connection in the choices, and the continued shut-out of Kent Haruf and John La Fonte, for example.

More than a thousand people voted to pick the next book, and not surprisingly, the crowd-pleasing To Kill a Mockingbird came out on top.

"The public deserves kudos for picking this timeless American classic," Mayor John Hickenlooper said in revealing the choice -- and Denver's participation in the Big Read. "To Kill a Mockingbirdspeaks to social issues still relevant in 2009, while showing us that human goodness perseveres even in hard times."

The last few years have been hard times for the One Book, One Denver program, too; the Big Read connection could help it get back on track. The city will be reading Mockingbird from September 1 through October, with a host of read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings and performing arts events --- and many of the materials for these events are already prepared, since the NEA backs up all of its Big Read books with related materials.

For more on the NEA program, go to www.neabigread.org.

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