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ODU Wins NEA Grant to Promote Reading In Hampton Roads Ethnic Communities

Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read grant to promote reading among adults in Hampton Roads' ethnic communities.

The Big Read, which debuted in 2006, brings communities together to read, discuss and celebrate one of 30 selections from U.S. and world literature. Locally, the focus will be on Amy Tan's popular 1989 novel, "The Joy Luck Club." Participants in the program will be given a copy of the book and have an opportunity to engage in discussions about it and take part in various other activities related to the novel's themes.

"There is a need in Hampton Roads, as in most areas throughout the world, for a project like the Big Read," said Lea Lee, ODU associate professor of teaching and learning and principal investigator for the grant. "People are reading less and less as technological advances make access to information and entertainment more readily available through non-written formats."

"The Joy Luck Club" tells the stories of four Chinese American immigrant women who share their own views of the world, based on their experiences of growing up and living in China, with their American-born daughters.

ODU's Big Read project will target participants of high school age on up from among the area's Asian, African American and Hispanic communities.

"We want to reach people who don't read on a regular basis so that they can develop a literary reading habit," said Zhongtang Ren, research scientist with ODU's Programs for Research and Evaluation for Public Schools (PREPS), who will serve as one of the Big Read project leaders. "We also hope to arouse interest in other cultures through this project, and in so doing bring about a sense of shared community."

Ren added that a Web site will be developed to support the project with online discussions and to serve as an ongoing tool for encouraging participants to continue their reading.

The $10,300 NEA grant will be matched with $10,000 from the university, said Dave Blackburn, PREPS director. The matching funds are being provided by Darden College of Education Dean William Graves; Charlene Fleener, chair of the teaching and learning department; and Mohammad Karim, vice president for research.

The funds will be used to purchase copies of "The Joy Luck Club," cover program implementation costs and host a variety of related activities, such as book discussions, movie screenings, performing arts events and contests.

This article was posted on: July 1, 2009

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