view counter

The Big Read

Join in a multi-media celebration starting with a book of poetry about a boxer

      “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 

–Dr. Seuss 


         Imagine a book club with 500,000 members.

         That’s The Big Read, a nationwide book connection program aiming to expose people to new kinds of books, challenge our ideas and bring the community together in shared passion for reading.

         Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 Big Read programs and brought 4.9 million Americans to Big Read events. This year, Big Read activities have reached every congressional district in the country.

         Now those Big Read events are beginning again in Chesapeake Country.

         The book is The Big Smoke, a collection of poems by Adrian Matejka that give a voice to Jack Johnson.

         No, not the musician, the legendary boxer.

         Johnson, nicknamed the ­Galveston Giant, became the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1908, during the height of Jim Crow.

         The 47-year-old African American poet interprets Johnson’s struggles and triumphs through poetic monologues written in the boxer’s voice. 

         “We were looking for a book that would connect to African American history,” said Deborah Wood of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, which won its third Big Read grant this year. Its first Big Read grant, in 2016, focused on Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.

         The Big Read kicked off on February 1, as did Black History Month, a happenstance not overlooked by the folks at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum.

         “We hope The Big Smoke will bring pride to members of the African American community and will help others appreciate and enjoy a culture and history different to their own,” Wood said.

         To make these connections, people need the book. Through grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, The Big Smoke is free.

         “If you come to any of our book clubs you’ll get a copy of The Big Smoke,” said Christine Feldman of Anne Arundel County Public Library. “While supplies last, of course.” So far close to 700 copies of the book have been given out to Big Readers.

         Find new Big Read events each week in Bay Weekly’s 8 Days a Week and fully detailed at: