The Big Read in Cherokee County 2009

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
The Towne Lake Arts Center
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide performing arts education, family entertainment and a creative outlet for the community.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

During February and March 2009, The Towne Lake Arts Center organized and provided to residents and students of Cherokee County a wide variety of activities for The Big Read featuring The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. The Big Read is the largest reading program of its kind and is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. It is designed to bring lapsed or reluctant readers, most of whom are adolescent boys, back to the joy of reading good literature. There were so many positive outcomes from our programming and it was a delight to see all of our ideas and plans come to life.The main highlight was bringing “Mr. Twain” (professional actor/historian Kurt Sutton) directly to the schools where he thoroughly engaged hundreds of students and dozens of teachers, inspiring them to read the book. Watching the excitement on the students’ faces as they received free copies of the book, the Tom Sawyer Free Ticket Bookmark (created using Microsoft Publisher) and National Endowment for the Arts pre-printed materials was a particular thrill. Teachers reported to us that students who normally show little interest in reading good literature were excited about reading their free copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer so they could earn a free ticket to the play by answering the questions on the Tom Sawyer Free Ticket Bookmark. This bookmark, created with Microsoft programs purchased from TechSoup, became like the ‘Golden Ticket’ in Willy Wonka allowing entrance into a magical world. Only instead of there being just five ‘Golden Tickets’, there were thousands! And instead of candy, the prize was a wonderful classic story. Cast members from our play version of “Tom Sawyer” supported “Mr. Twain” by becoming live illustrations of his stories. He told about life on the Mississippi, sang, played the banjo and harmonica and described how characters from the book were drawn from his actual childhood. Students joined him on stage for songs and sometimes teachers as well. This highlight continued as we presented the play on our stage during the month of March 2009 with “Mr. Twain” as one of the featured characters, engaging audiences at our theater and supporting the action of the play. One of our parent volunteers talked to several children as they waited in line for Mr. Twain to autograph their free copies of the book. She commented: “They were so excited to learn about the adventures of Tom Sawyer and his amazing life on the Mississippi. The bookmark questions encouraged them to keep exploring the story! What a joy to see the kids so thrilled to read!” Certainly the school and library appearances by “Mr. Twain” were our best marketing tools and allowed us to personally reach hundreds of potential Big Readers. TLAC distributed hundreds of handbills through the schools and libraries listing all the Big Read activities, all created using Microsoft Publisher. TLAC also sent professional E-Letters three times to the nearly 5,000 patrons in our database before and during the project. Microsoft Digital Image Suite was used to created images for our E-Letters. The Cherokee Tribune printed several stories with photos before and during our programming, again we used Microsoft Digital Image Suite to enhance our photos prior to sending them to the newspapers. The Around Town Magazines gave us half page free color ads during February and March. These ads were also created using Microsoft Publisher. We designed large, beautiful posters for our Lobby using Microsoft Publisher and a special poster for the ‘Becky Thatcher Tea Party’ that was displayed at a local tea room. Our printed programs given out during the play were created using Microsoft Word and Digital Image Suite. Additional media created using Microsoft Publisher and Word included the Injun Joe Treasure Hunt Guide and the Tom and Huck’s Mini-Raft Building Contest entry forms and Building Instructions used during the Mark Twain Festivals held in Woodstock and Canton. Over 5000 students, parents and teachers in our community were reached personally with our message that reading is an adventure. One boy who had previously been a reluctant reader enjoyed the book so much, he brought a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to school and asked the teacher to read that Mark Twain book to the class as well. Using the Microsoft products to create unique marketing tools such as the Tom Sawyer Free Ticket Bookmark increased the visibility of The Big Read and generated a positive incentive to read an American Classic. We know that the impact of this program will go far beyond reading only one book bringing hundreds of our citizens of all ages back to the joy of reading.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery