Readers will have the chance to get together to discuss two books thanks to a grant obtained by the Riverside Arts Council that will fund a program called The Big Read.
The Arts Council is among 208 libraries, municipalities and arts, culture, higher education and science organizations that received grants to fund the program.
Juan Felipa Herrera reads with Riverside resident Kai Ninete, now 7, at the main library.
Created by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read is an initiative to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment among adults and children.
The grant provides the opportunity for readers to discuss one of 23 book selections from American and world literature.
The Riverside program will focus on "Bless Me, Ultima" by Rudolfo Anaya in conjunction with Riverside author and UCR professor Juan Felipe Herrera's "Crash Boom Love."
The first event, to be held Wednesday at the Riverside Public Library, will kick off the initiative with a book discussion with Herrera, snacks and free copies of both books for participants who register for the discussion to follow on Feb. 25.
The Feb. 25 discussion will take place in four library branches simultaneously -- Arlington, La Sierra, Orange Terrace and Main. It will be facilitated by students of Herrera who will compare and contrast the two novels.
Herrera, who grew up as the son of migrant farm workers in the Central and San Joaquin valleys, lived simply but with a great deal of music, reading, storytelling and a love of language.
"Many of his books are somewhat autobiographical, including 'Crash Boom Love,' " said Marion Michell-Wilson, executive director at Inlandia Institute. "It is a novel written in verse ... one of the few examples of a novel in verse in Chicano literature."
The book has many parallels to "Bless Me, Ultima" and in each discussion event the two stories will be compared and contrasted.
"You don't need to be a published author in order to lead one of these groups, being someone that simply has a love of literature is enough," said Patrick O'Brien, executive director of the Riverside Arts Council.
The Arts Council received the $10,000 grant to fund Riverside Big Read and has partnered with Inlandia Institute and the Riverside Public Library to stage the event.
"It's something we're very excited to be a part of," O'Brien said. "There's a real energy that is going on throughout the country about this."
Anne-Imelda Radice, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., said The Big Read has supported more than 500 public library partnerships.
THE BIG READ
Discuss "Bless Me, Ultima" by Rudolfo Anaya and "Crash Boom Love" by Juan Felipe Herrera at two Riverside events:
Where: Riverside Public Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside
Where: Riverside Public Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave.; Arlington Library, 9556 Magnolia Ave.; Orange Terrace, 200100-B Orange Terrace Parkway; La Sierra Library, 4600 La Sierra Ave., Riverside
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 25
Register: 951-826-5213, www.riversideca.gov/Library/events.asp