U.S. grant turns page on adult reading, discussion program Howard is lone applicant to get full $80,850 request

February 04, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Library system -- which for years has aggressively developed reading programs -- has received an $80,850 federal grant to start an ambitious adult reading and discussion program in the humanities throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

Howard is one of only four library systems in the nation to receive such a grant this year from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is the only one to receive the full amount it applied for, said James Turner, an NEH spokesman.

That distinction is due in large part to the work of Patricia Bates, adult program coordinator for the Howard County Library, he said.

"She was one of the pioneers of the reading discussion programs," said Mr. Turner, noting that Ms. Bates developed such a program in 1971 in Vermont that was duplicated across the nation.

Ms. Bates said the NEH grant will fund adult reading and discussion programs at more than 50 libraries, seniors sites and workplaces in Howard and across Maryland, northern Virginia, southern and central Pennsylvania and Washington. Specific locations have yet to be determined.

"We're reaching a whole population that doesn't come to the library," Ms. Bates said.

In 1989, she received the NEH's Charles Frankel Prize, honoring scholars who have increased the public's understanding of history, literature, philosophy and other topics in the humanities.

Ms. Bates said she believes that Howard's application was chosen because Howard libraries use money wisely.

"I think it's the fact that we recycled so many of the materials and resources that have been funded in the past," she said.

The scholar-led discussion and reading program, called "Books Bridge the Gap," will begin later this month and run through March 1998, Ms. Bates said.

Works to be discussed include poems by Rita Dove and Gwendolyn Brooks, and books such as Zora Neale Hurston's "Dust Tracks on a Road" and Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary."

"People from all walks of life" will be provided books to read and discuss, Ms. Bates said. "To me that's what the humanities are all about. It's the sharing of ideas based on fact, not on opinion."

For information, call Patricia Bates at 313-7768.

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