State Historical Library brings NEA's The Big Read to Central Iowa
Panel discussion, book group, movie, theatrical production feature "The Call of the Wild"

For immediate release April 28, 2008


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) –The State Historical Library is bringing The Big Read to Central Iowa this week for a series of programs about Jack London’s classic novel, “The Call of the Wild.”

On Thursday, May 1, 7-9 p.m., the State Historical Library will host a panel discussion about labor unions and community organizing at the State Historical Building. Representatives from the Iowa Federation of Labor, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (A.M.O.S.), and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will discuss their organizing history and strategies.

On Saturday, May 3, 1-3 p.m., the Gold Star Museum in Johnston will host “Army & Guard: The Rewards & Risks of Reading” with special reference to “The Call of the Wild.” 

On Tuesday, May 6, 5-7 p.m., Uncle Nancy’s Coffeehouse and Eatery in Newton will host “Different Time-Same Place: Jack London’s Iowa and Newton Connections” discussion.

On Thursday, May 8, 7 p.m., the Library will show “The Call of the Wild” movie and offer a Jack London trivia contest at the State Historical Building.

The Scavo Alternative High School Readers’ Theater class performs an adaptation of this London novel over the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) Thursday, April 14 at 12:30 p.m.

More information about these and other Big Read events is available by contacting the State Historical Library’s Susan Jellinger at 515-281-6897. The State Historical Library is located in the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. The Gold Star Museum is at 7105 NW 70th Avenue in Johnston. Uncle Nancy’s is at 114 N. 2nd Avenue West in Newton. All events are free and open to the public.

The NEA developed The Big Read in response to a 2004 study that showed reading in America is on the decline – less than half of the country’s adult population read novels, short stories, drama or poetry. The study also found the percentage of the U.S. adult population reading any book has declined by seven percent over the past decade, with the steepest decline in the youngest age groups.

The Big Read began as a pilot program in 2006 with 10 communities featuring four books, and will expand next year to approximately 400 communities in the U.S.

This year, NEA awarded nearly $1.6 million in grants to 127 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture and higher education, and science organizations throughout the country to host a Big Read celebration of one of 16 classic novels January-June 2008.

The State Historical Library received a $16,300 NEA grant to present The Big Read this year in Iowa, selecting Jack London’s classic “The Call of the Wild” to promote literature and history through book discussions, exhibits and presentations.

The book is about Buck, a pampered canine that is dognapped and forced to pull a sled in the frozen, dangerous Yukon.

In tracking Buck’s story, readers learn about self-sufficiency and what it means to be a family. They learn about acceptance, honor, loyalty and trust. Others may enjoy learning about the social aspects of wolves and competition to be the Alpha male.

The State Historical Library chose “The Call of the Wild” because of London’s historical ties to Iowa – he marched across the state in 1894 with Kelly’s Army, a group of men who traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for workers’ rights; his surname came from his stepfather, John London, a Moscow, Iowa farmer; and his second wife, Charmain Kittredge, was from Newton.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Art Midwest. It is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of its citizens. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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