“We conduct our Big Read programs to bring the reading of literature to our three counties. We believe the reading of literature helps us to be better people and citizens – more understanding, more empathetic, more able to appreciate the complexity of issues, more willing to be involved."
-Anne Masters, Director Pioneer Library System
Pioneer Library System began The Big Read adventure in 2007 with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and celebrated The Grapes of Wrath involving more than 10,000 readers in 89 public events, 137 book discussions and 21 school-related activities. System wide, 72 organizations partnered with PLS to present the Big Read activities. Every year, each Big Read has evolved into its own particular success, each with its own particular elements unique to each novel.
Big Read activities have been at The Sooner Theatre, The National Weather Center, The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the OBU Geiger Center, Bob Moore Nissan, The Norman Depot Performing Arts Center, The Crucible Foundry, The McClain County Fairgrounds, The Chouse, Native Roots Market, The Dick Bell Courtroom of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, the Warren Theatre, as well as in high school and college auditoriums, bank lobbies, art galleries, restaurants, churches, senior centers, private homes, and the PLS hometown public libraries.
Big Reads have included a drawing for a car, a touring readers’ theatre, a bronze falcon sculpture and a series of prize plaster falcons, a public songwriting challenge, and Lion Dancers among many other novel ideas all tied to novels.
The first Big Read, Grapes of Wrath, established the tradition of utilizing unique venues for literary events. The kickoff brought more than a thousand readers to the National Weather Center.
The second Big Read, Bless Me Ultima, added the element of a Little Read for children when Rudolfo Anaya’s children’s book The First Tortilla was teamed with his novel Bless Me, Ultima.
The third Big Read, To Kill a Mockingbird, introduced the private screenings at the luxurious Warren Theatre in Moore of movies inspired by the featured novels. To Kill A Mockingbird was the subject of the first Big Read Movie Night.
The fourth Big Read, The Maltese Falcon, focused on the creative process and fine art. The art of sculpture was the focus with attention brought to each of Pioneer’s hometown’s public art and the addition of a commissioned bronze statue
The fifth Big Read, The Things They Carried, was the first to include a visit from the author of the featured novel. Author Tim O’Brien spoke to standing-room-only crowds at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Norman North High School, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. He also met with members of the Pioneer Library System Foundation at private receptions in Norman and Shawnee.
The sixth Big Read, The Joy Luck Club, brought a presenting, cooperative partner to Pioneer Library System. The University of Oklahoma Confucius Institute brought the Chinese Culture Experience to the Big Read with Chinese folk dances, traditional music and instruments, demonstrations of a Chinese tea ceremony, Tai Chi, calligraphy, and traditional Chinese games.