'True Grit' selected for Wichita's Big Read 2013

The Big Read Wichita 2013 will kick off with a pre-party on Sept. 21 at the Wichita Art Museum, the first of dozens of events to encourage reading in south-central Kansas this fall. The party will feature Western music, a reader’s theater and other activities. Admission is free, and complimentary copies of this year’s book, “True Grit,” will be given away while supplies last.

Wichita Public Library officials announced at the Empire House Theatre in Old Cowtown Museum on Thursday the schedule of special events for the sixth annual Wichita Big Read, one of the longest-running programs in the United States. This year’s Big Read will be from Oct. 1 through Nov. 15.

The setting of Thursday’s announcement reflected the Wild West feel of the novel by Charles Portis, about 14-year-old Mattie Ross and crusty, one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who try to track down the killer of Mattie’s father.

Considered by many to be one of the classic American books of the 20th century, “True Grit” was made famous in the 1969 movie starring John Wayne, in which he won his only Academy Award. An updated version of the film in 2010 starred Jeff Bridges.

Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Jim Skelton, one of the honorary co-chairmen of the Big Read 2013, spoke Thursday about the need for community involvement in reading.

He said that literacy and reading comprehension improve a community’s quality of life. Readers are more likely to vote, be involved in civic events, show a passion to learn, and contribute to charities, he said.

Julie Linneman, program and outreach manager for the library, announced the four major events of the Big Read. In addition to the September party, both film versions of the novel will be shown as a double feature on Oct. 5; Tom Averill, author of “What Kansas Means to Me,” will deliver the keynote lecture on Oct. 13; and Old Cowtown Museum will be open on Oct. 27 for an afternoon of free Western performances.

Numerous book clubs in Sedgwick County will also meet to discuss the novel. Companion titles are available for younger readers.

Linneman also unveiled this year’s poster, “Smoking Cattle Out of the Breaks,” a 1912 painting by Charles M. Russell from the Wichita Art Museum’s collection.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts managed by Arts Midwest and designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture.

For more information, visit or contact the Wichita Public Library at 316-261-8500.