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Big Read Program 2010 Launch Set for Jan. 22 in V.I.

The Virgin Islands Council on the Arts (VICA) will launch the Big Read Program 2010 on Friday, Jan. 22, celebrating Ernest Gaines' best selling novel "A Lesson Before Dying." The launch will take place at The Battery, Cruz Bay, St. John.

The Big Read Program is a partnership between the Department of Planning & Natural Resources - Division of Libraries and Museums, the University of the Virgin Islands' Reichhold Center for the Arts and IT - Learning Resources and Student Technology Services Area, the Department of Education, and the Virgin Islands Police Department.

Over 100 free copies of the book are now available for pick up, while supplies last at the Julius E. Sprauve Library. More copies will be available for loan from libraries throughout the Territory. Community members will be brought together through a variety of activities from now through the middle of June.

On Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., The VI Council on the Arts and the First Lady Mrs. Cecile deJongh will host the program's kickoff with more than 100 invited guests at the St. John Battery. The event will feature a cajun inspired theme with cuisine, art works, and music from the Southern United States. Other speakers at the kickoff event include the Honorable Judge Alan Smith and the Big Read 2010 spokesperson, Officer Delvin K. Fleming of the VIPD.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The National Endowment, in partnership with the Institute of Museums and Library Services and Arts Midwest, brought together partners from across the United States to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of the 189 communities nationwide participating in the Big Read from September 2009 and June 2010. Locally, the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts will organize panel discussions and film screenings to engage the community at community centers, libraries, and schools. Upcoming events will be announced throughout the year.

For more information on the Big Read in the Virgin Islands, call Tasida Kelch at (340) 774-5984 or send email to tasidakelch@yahoo.com.