Literacy awareness campaign kicks off on campus


CW Staff

According to a National Endowment for the Arts survey, fewer than half of American adults read literature. However, a new campaign from the NEA aims to improve this deficiency.

“The Big Read: Alabama Reads ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ by Mark Twain” is a statewide campaign led by the NEA in conjunction with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest to increase literacy and the use of public libraries throughout the state of Alabama.

The campaign divides the state of Alabama into nine regions, with 200 libraries participating. Gov. Bob Riley launched the campaign Tuesday with a reading on the statehouse steps in Montgomery. Rachel Canfield, coordinator for the event and director of media placement, said approximately 200 people were at the statehouse steps, which is very rare.

“This event was very successful because it informed people to promote literacy and it directed them to our Web site,” Canfield said.

The Capstone Agency, the University’s student-run public relations firm, partnered with the campaign to raise awareness on the UA campus and has been working on the project since August. On Wednesday, white picket fences lined areas on the Quad, the Ferguson Plaza and the Shelby quad inviting passersby to recall their favorite childhood stories by posting them on the fences with sticky notes.

The most popular stories were “The Little Engine That Could” and “Nancy Drew.” About 150 students participated, said Aly Alameddin, co-account executive for the Capstone Agency and senior majoring in public relations and English.

“Alabama has one of the lowest literacy rates, so we want others to get involved and change this,” she said.

The organization chose the white picket fence to recall when Tom Sawyer enlisted his friends to help paint the fence white. Sawyer discovered that if he appeared as if he’s enjoying himself, then he could convince his friends to do the work for him.

“It’s a good, eye-catching way to tie in the book and to get people involved. It’s always tough to get people to talk to you on campus, even with a white picket fence, but there’s definitely notice on campus of the campaign,” said Caroline Beard, a UA Capstone Agency member.

Events for the campaign will take place between February and April and will include kickoff events in each region with family events, panel discussions, lectures, public readings and book discussions. Alameddin said the University has also planned several surprise events over the next few weeks in Tuscaloosa, along with another event in March.

“We don’t think about the modern institution the library has to offer and all of the free resources it has,” Beard said.