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CCAC's 'Big Read' Focuses On Vietnam War

During March, the Community College of Allegheny County will be reminding Pittsburghers to enjoy a good book.

The Big Read, a national program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, will bring together organizations around the region to promote literacy.

“What we hope this will do for literacy is to spark an interest in reading because reading is good for the soul, it elevates the mind, it promotes critical thinking and it helps you to experience other cultures,” said Barbara Evans, associate dean of academic affairs and Big Read project director at CCAC.

CCAC started the program in 2010, but paid for it internally. Since then, the NEA has granted CCAC funding, under terms it focuses a literacy program on a book from a required list.

This year’s book is Tim O’Brien’s "The Things They Carried," a collection of vignettes detailing the Vietnam War from an American’s perspective.

Evans said the book reopens the discussion of the war.

“This book allows the public to understand, raise their awareness and have a different respect for those soldiers that fought in that war and those that lost their lives and what their families experienced,” Evans said.

The month-long program will include film screenings and discussions sponsored by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, a writing marathon, music activities and several panel discussions featuring Vietnam veterans and historians.

It will kick off March 3 at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum at  6 p.m. featuring guest speaker Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

If The Big Read is successful, Evans said it will help readers “make a genuine connection to the novels.”

“This is a partnership, and our partners come together and this really helps us to engage in an authentic way around literature,” Evans said.