News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 5, 2009

Big Read program credited with helping raise reading rates; this year’s story is ‘Call of the Wild’

TERRE HAUTE — For the first time in more than 25 years, American adults are reading more literature, according to a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The new growth reverses two decades of downward trends cited in previous NEA reports.

Indiana State Librarian Roberta L. Brooker believes national programs such as The Big Read are making a difference.

“We’re happy to see it’s been increasing because it is important in every aspect of one’s life,” she said during a talk at the Vigo County Public Library.

Her talk was part of a series of events scheduled in connection with the public library’s Big Read, which this year focuses on Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild.”

The library has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host The Big Read in Vigo County.

Brooker commended the public library’s efforts in connection with The Big Read. “The importance of reading can’t be understated,” she said. It stimulates the imagination, broadens one’s perspective and exercises the mind.

Through The Big Read, “Terre Haute demonstrates year in and year out that the community that reads together grows together,” she said.

But the news isn’t all good in Indiana, particularly when it comes to educational attainment, she said. Brooker pointed to the following statistics from a January 2007 Indiana Reading Task Force report:

• More than 25 percent of Indiana students who enter high school do not graduate in four years.

• A total of 27 percent of Indiana’s eighth-graders scored below the National Assessment of Educational Progress basic reading level in 2005.

• Indiana ranks near the bottom among states in the percentage of residents 25 and older who have earned college degrees.

• Many Hoosiers have literacy skills below the minimum standard for successful employment in a knowledge-based economy.

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