State Historical Library to launch "The Big Read" in Iowa
NEA-funded program promotes reading and literature across country

For immediate release March 6, 2008


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

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Library today announced its schedule of statewide events to promote reading and literature in Iowa as part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ “The Big Read” program.

The Big Read is an NEA initiative designed to restore reading to the center of American culture and is presented in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.

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 promote the program this year in Iowa, choosing Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for a series of events throughout the state April 18-May 28, 2008.

“In selecting The Call of the Wild, we have chosen a work that addresses numerous universal themes such as what it means to be a family, self-sufficiency, the search for acceptance, honor, loyalty and trust,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “It will also appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, and others may enjoy learning about the social aspects of wolves and competition to be the Alpha male. And, Jack London’s historical tie to Iowa as part of Kelly’s Army makes The Call of the Wild a good fit for The Big Read in Iowa.”

The 2008 Big Read grantees represent 38 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NEA inaugurated The Big Read as a pilot project with 10 communities in 2006. By 2009, approximately 400 communities in the U.S. will have hosted a Big Read since the program’s launch.

Following is the State Historical Library’s The Big Read event schedule in Iowa:


Friday, April 18
2-4 p.m.
Council Bluffs Public Library
400 Willow Avenue
Council Bluffs

  • “A Walk on the Wild Side: Council Bluffs, Jack London, Kelly’s Army and Railroads” display
  • Book Discussion: Jack London’s novel, The Call of the Wild

Saturday, April 19
10-5 p.m.
Western Historic Trails Center
3464 Richard Downing Dr.
Council Bluffs

  • Klondike Kick-Off to “A Walk on the Wild Side: Kelly’s Army, Jack London and his The Call of the Wild
  • Klondike demonstrations; Jack London Trivia contest with prizes; Montana Mountain Mushers: Hero Dogs Sled Team display and program with prizes; and a screening of the film The Call of the Wild: A Dog of the Yukon.

Monday, April 21
Noon-5 p.m.
Walnut Visitors Center
607 Highland St.

  • Antiques and History: When Jack London and Kelly’s Army Came to Town (display)
  • Book Discussion: Rewards of Reading The Call of the Wild
  • Feature Film: The Call of the Wild

Tuesday, April 22
2:30-4:30 p.m.
Adair Public Library
312 Audubon St.

  • A Call to Reading: Celebrating Library Week with Jack London
  • Reception with Historical Display

Wednesday, April 23
Noon-2 p.m.
State Historical Society of Iowa
402 Iowa Avenue
Iowa City

  • A Big Read: The Call of the Wild  discussion (Noon-1 p.m.), Kyle Harnish, facilitator
  • Kelly’s Army display and exhibit (1-2 p.m.)

Saturday, April 26
9 a.m.-Noon
Earlham Public Library
120 S. Chestnut Avenue

  • Book Talk: “Different Time-Same Place: Jack London’s Earlham Connection”
  • Library Week Reception with a The Call of the Wild readers’ contest

Sunday, April 27
1-4:30 p.m.
West Des Moines Public Library
4000 Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines

  • Jack London/Kelly’s Army historic display
  • Book Talk: Rewards and Risks To Reading
  • The Call of The Wild contest

Thursday, May 1
7-9 p.m.
State Historical Building
600 E. Locust Street
Des Moines

  • Panel Discussion: “Which Side Are You On? Unions and Community Organizing: Past & Present.Representatives from Iowa Federation of Labor and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Saturday, May 3
1-3 p.m.
Gold Star Museum, Camp Dodge

  • “Army & Guard: The Rewards and Risks of Reading” with special reference to Jack London’s The Call of The Wild

Tuesday, May 6
5-7 p.m.
Uncle Nancy’s Coffeehouse and Eatery
114 North 2nd Avenue West

  • Presentation: “Different Time–Same Place: Jack London’s Iowa and Newton Connections”
  • London w/Kelly’s Army Display

May 7-May 28, 2008 (Wednesdays)
Clermont Public Library
503 Larrabee St., Box 49

  • “A Walk on the Wild Side: The Big Read, Kelly’s Army and Jack London” display

Wednesday, May 7
9-10:30 a.m.
Montauk Historic Site

  • A Call to Reading: The Big Read’s selection The Call of the Wild, Intro and chapters 1-2

Thursday, May 8

7-9 p.m.
State Historical Building
600 E. Locust Street
Des Moines

  • Movie Night: The Call of the Wild and Jack London trivia contest w/prizes

Wednesday, May 14
9-10:30 a.m.
Montauk Historic Site

  • Reading the Wild: Chapters 3-5, The Call of The Wild

Friday, May 16
2-5 p.m.
DMACC, Ankeny Campus
2006 South Ankeny Boulevard

  • A Call to be Wild: Life Experiences and Life Stories (part of the International Day of Life Stories)

Wednesday, May 21
9-10:30 a.m.
Montauk Historic Site

  • Comparing the Wild: View The Call of The Wild movie to compare & contrast with novel

Wednesday, May 28
9-10:30 a.m.
Montauk Historic Site

  • Last Call: Chapters 6-7, The Call of The Wild

Wednesday, May 28
11:45 a.m.-1 p.m.
State Historical Building
600 E. Locust Street
Des Moines

  • A Wild Ending: Book Discovery Discussion
  • The Big Read Closing Reception

Iowa National Guard:

The Big Read is going international via telecommunications to Iowa National Guard members stationed overseas. Times and dates will be announced for this event in coordination with unit commanders in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. State Historical Society of Iowa Librarian Susan Jellinger will facilitate the book discussions, probably during the night (Central Time) to accommodate for the time difference in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Scavo Alternative High School:

Scavo Alternative High School Readers Theater class is creating a presentation tentatively scheduled to be performed and broadcast over the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) April 17. Teacher Ellen Robinson and State Historical Society’s Museum Theater Coordinator Maureen Korte are guiding the students throughout this production. English or Language Arts teachers who want their class to see the performance and get involved in the discussion about the production or the book, The Call of the Wild, should contact the State Historical Society of Iowa Library/Archives Reading Room at 515-281-6200 or 515-281-6897 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

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The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at

 The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts—both new and established—bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit

 The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. For more information, please visit

 Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit

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