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LLCC Academy of Lifelong Learning sponsors the Big Read this spring

By Kathy Dehen, LLCC Academy of Lifelong Learning President, 2020-2021
Kathy Dehen

Reading can transport us to somewhere unfamiliar, allow us to see through someone else’s eyes, expand our awareness, challenge our perspectives, and encourage us to try something we hadn’t thought of before. The Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL) at Lincoln Land Community College is committed to continuous growth and learning which is why we have worked over the past several months to coordinate a community reading project to help us individually learn from a single book and to bring us all together through partnerships and dialogue among diverse people and organizations.

ALL has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant to host the NEA Big Read: Sangamon County which is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Over 45 local community organizations have planned over 75 free events that will take place between March 1 – April 30, all centered around one book: “Lab Girl.” “Lab Girl” is an award-winning autobiography of Hope Jahren, a Minnesota native who overcame gender stereotypes in science to become one of the world’s leading geobiologists. Her memoir tells the story of a young woman who finds friendship in odd places, battles bipolar disorder, perseveres through setbacks and becomes a respected scientist and passionate observer of the natural world.

Over 1,000 free copies of “Lab Girl” and 400 DIY Youth Garden Glove kits will be distributed to community members through curbside pickup events, Little Neighborhood Libraries, Lincoln Library and at 13 other local libraries in the surrounding area. Audio and Braille versions are available for check out at select libraries. We invite you to pick up a copy, read it and pass it on to someone else who may enjoy it. We also invite you to participate in one or more of the 75 free events planned which include nature walks, tours, lectures, panels, artistic activities and performances and book discussions … all planned around the book’s themes. Note that you do not need to have read the book to get involved and participate.

We proudly host three virtual keynote speakers. On March 2, our own local retired librarian and 2020 SJ-R First Citizen award winner, Kathryn Harris, will present “Reading Science, Reading Together,” encouraging everyone to read and sharing similarities between history and science. On March 25, Emily Graslie, host of “Prehistoric Road Trip” on PBS and creator of YouTube’s “The Brain Scoop,” will discuss “The Power of Curiosity.” On April 17, we will hear from Hope Jahren, “Lab Girl” author, live from Oslo, Norway!

We are thrilled our amazing community partners and many volunteers have joined us with so much enthusiasm to plan this community-wide reading program and look forward to engaging you all in stimulating conversation and programming.

Visit for a full calendar of events, book distribution points and partner organizations. This website will be updated often with the latest details on events.

ALL at LLCC offers opportunities for anyone ages 50 and over to stay mentally and physically active. Classes and activities are planned and led by members who enjoy meeting interesting friends, sharing ideas, exploring topics of interest, learning from one another and having fun. More information is available at