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Lab Girl selected for 2019 NEA Big Read: Wichita

Contact: Sean Jones, Wichita Public Library |

The Wichita Public Library was selected to receive one of 78 national Big Read grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for the 2019 NEA Big Read Wichita.

This year’s featured book is Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, a memoir about her life as a geobiologist living with bipolar disorder and how she finds beauty in nature and science. The book was chosen by a panel of Library staff members and community partners for the Big Read during a meeting in the fall.

“We chose Lab Girl because of the community organizations we can partner with,” said Julie Sherwood, Partnership and Community Engagement Manager for the Wichita Public Library. “The book talks about the beauty of science and nature, and we look forward to building upon these themes through science, arts and cultural programs all across the city.”

Serving as honorary co-chairs for the 2019 NEA Big Read Wichita are Mayor Jeff Longwell, Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers and Mrs. Susan Estes, wife of Congressman Ron Estes, and former President of the Wichita Public Library Board of Directors. Estes is a current member of the Wichita Public Library Foundation.

“I know of nothing more important than reading to our children and also reading for pleasure,” Lt. Gov. Rogers said. “It makes me proud when our communities value learning and exploring stories, and I am thrilled to be involved with the Big Read Wichita as an honorary chair.”

For 12 years, area schools, libraries, cultural organizations, businesses and book clubs have come together to celebrate literacy through Big Read Wichita programs. This year, the Wichita Public Library will partner with several organizations to host keynote speakers, activities, book discussions and community events in relation to the themes of Lab Girl. Partnership organizations include CityArts, Great Plains Nature Center and Bartlett Arboretum.

“The Big Read is about much more than sharing a good book,” Mayor Longwell said. “While that in itself is a worthwhile endeavor, it’s the promotion of literacy and community connectivity that truly makes this a special program.”

The Library will also bring in keynote speakers from The Land Institute, and the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California at Davis.

“For more than a decade, we have benefited from the exceptional events and national speakers that participate in this annual tradition that provides constructive conversations around various literary titles,” Estes said. “The NEA Big Read: Wichita is truly an exciting way for our community to come together over the pages of a book.”

The NEA Big Read: Wichita runs October 1-November 15. A kickoff party will be held 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Advanced Learning Library. Details about Big Read events happening throughout Wichita will be announced during the summer, and will be made available at

Readers are invited to join the conversation at the Big Read Wichita Facebook page.

Wichita Public Library provides collections and services that inform, entertain and enrich the quality of life in Wichita. For more information, please visit

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. The Wichita Public Library Foundation is one of 78 not-for-profit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2019 and June 2020. The NEA presents NEA Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest.

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