NEA Big Read Returns to Annapolis

By Ellen Moyer

For the second time, The National Endowment for the Arts has chosen a community group in Annapolis for a partnership grant in the Big Read Program.

The NEA was founded by Congress in 1965 to provide leadership in arts education and to promote projects for artistic excellence. One of their programs promotes great books and the stories they tell. Through literature a nation tells its stories to its citizens.

Some Annapolitans will remember the first Big Read in 2008, with activities associated with The Great Gatsby. It was highlighted by the party of all parties hosted by Debra Smith and Charter 300 at Sarles Boat Yard. Book clubs and high school students, too, joined in discussing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.

This time around The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer is the Big Read selection. As we all know, Mark Twain’s novel tells the story of a young boy in a small town on the Mississippi (like himself) who was finding his way to maturity. Though more than 100 years old Tom Sawyer, is one of America’s best-loved tales. Its representation of excitement and fear and mischievousness still appeals to young readers. And in Twain’s words, telling stories of growing up, “reminds adults of what they once were themselves and what they felt and thought.”

Mark Twain was a satirist and commentator on the foibles of human nature. When you read Tom Sawyer, you explore the principle moral, psychological and intellectual precepts of our species.

In the Spring of 2016, under the direction of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, book-related activities will be called Old Fashioned Picnic, Goin’ Fishing, a White Wash Weekend, the Trial of Muff Potter, an 1850s Gala and book discussions, including one with “Mark Twain” himself. Check the museum’s website: for event details. There will be many community partners including other nonprofits, local businesses, schools, churches, the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Public Library.

So get ready to jump back in time for adventure with Mark Twain and his characters, including Tom, Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher and Aunt Polly, who have become part of our American heritage. “There is much to be learned from this bygone era,” says Debbie Wood, executive director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum, “when children could play freely, doors didn’t need to be locked … and the village was a tight network of intersecting lives.”

Reading Tom Sawyer, we will revel in its essential optimism and sense of adventure, discover our human strengths and weaknesses and perhaps rediscover the growing pains of a less rushed life.

For more information, contact Debbie Wood at Chesapeake Children’s Museum at [email protected] or 410.990.1993.


Volunteers always welcome to help with:

planning committee


graphic design

volunteer coordination



record keeping



book discussion


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