Saturday, November 17th, 2007

BOOKS BEHIND BARS

It’s called The Big Read and it’s sponsored by the NEA. Basically, it’s a program that promotes more reading in America. I’m all for it, and I’ve been selected to spearhead the “prison pilot.” Usually, The Big Read takes place in libraries all over the country — this is the first attempt to reach out to incarcerated youth. For me it’s an honor and an adventure. This is a real prison, with cells, guards and guns! We start with London’s Call of the Wild, move on to Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues and eventually tackle such literary staples as Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. All this in 13 once-a-weeks visits. A vast majority of the boys, or “wards” as we are required to call them, don’t like to read, and they particularly don’t like to read assigned books. The few who do, lean towards crime fiction (although one did fess up to liking Jackie Collins, which, though not necessarily a crime, is a guilty pleasure). The first session, 12 wards showed up, cranky but curious. Second session, only 2. Next week we intend to bribe, er, encourage their attendance with snacks. I have placed an order for potato chips, candy bars, cookies, and juice boxes. Food for thought?