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NEA Big Read: Northeast Nebraska

The NEA Big Read in Northeast Nebraska consists of a variety of engaging events for people of all ages and abilities. The events are aimed at broadening understanding of our world, our neighbors and ourselves through the power of a shared reading experience.

Below is an overview of event types. Specific event dates and details will be added soon to the NEA Big Read Calendar.

Book Giveaways

Copies of the NEA Big Read featured title Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig and the companion titles, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (grades 9-12) and Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott (grades 5-8) will be given away throughout the community while supplies last. Copies can also be checked out from the Norfolk Public Library and the Northeast Library. Multiple formats available.

Kick-Off Event

The kick-off event will feature a keynote address by Edison McDonald, Executive Director of The Arc of Nebraska — an organization that advocates with and for people with disabilities to have full inclusion into their communities—and author of Sowing the Seeds of Change: The Organizers Handbook. Music will be performed by people who experience a variety of disabilities. The event will include a disability services fair to help individuals and families connect with organizations that offer services and benefits.

Museum Exhibit

Visit the Elkhorn Valley Museum to engage with their NEA Big Read exhibit American Dream: The ADA & Nebraska. This exhibit will explore the history of the ADA, the role Nebraskans played in its passage, and how the ADA continues to make an impact.

Film Viewing & Discussion

CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion (Gold Pictures) will be shown in segments with discussion interspersed. The film examines how disability portrayals have evolved in entertainment and focuses on the impact of media on society and inclusion of people with disabilities. Paul Muncy, Northeast history and geography instructor, will facilitate the event, focusing on how the film intersects with issues addressed in Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig and the lived experiences of those in attendance.

Read Aloud Event

Northeast’s Early Childhood Education students and faculty will host a read aloud event for children age 3 through 3rd grade. Attendees are encouraged to wear pajamas and will participate in four 15- to 20-minute stations, each featuring a book read aloud, discussion, and activity. Books focus on disability, accessibility, inclusion, and empathy. Each child will receive a book to take home.

Listening Sessions

The Norfolk Public Library will host eight listening sessions for Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig. Each session will focus on listening to the audiobook version of one chapter. Print copies and magnifiers will also be available. The end of each session will have time for a reflection period for attendees.

Theatre Workshops & Performance

The Sharing Our Stories theatre workshop series will be led by visiting director and playwright Fran Sillau, a multidisciplinary theatre artist with a disability, who serves as Executive Artistic Director of Circle Theatre—a theatre for individuals of all abilities—and Director of Accessibility at The Rose Theatre, both in Omaha.

  • Workshop 1 (March 14): Discovering Strengths and Abilities to Tell Your Own Story. Utilizing theatre techniques such as story dramatization, improvisation, and forum theater, Sillau will enable students and community members to discover their strengths and abilities to tell their own stories. Attendees are encouraged to attend workshops 1, 2, and 4 and to participate in the final presentation.
  • Workshop 2 (March 21): Crafting Stories. Sillau will build on the foundation established in the initial workshop and lead attendees in further developing their stories. Attendees are encouraged to attend workshops 1, 2, and 4 and to participate in the final performance.
  • Workshop 3 (April 4): Best Practices for Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities in Theatre. Drawing on his personal and professional experience, Sillau will share inclusive practices and address questions and concerns raised by attendees. Anyone who works in theatre or similar activities or who is interested in increasing inclusion is invited to attend.
  • Workshop 4 (April 18): Making New Work Stage Ready. Sillau will help those who develop their stories through workshops 1 and 2 prepare to share their stories with an audience.
  • Performance (April 18): Individuals who develop their stories through theatre workshops 1, 2, and 4 will present their stories to an audience. This performance event is open to all.

Educational Series

Beth Plisek, League of Human Dignity Independent Living Advocate, will offer four educational sessions:

  • March 15: Exploring Our Disability Identity
  • March 22: Statewide Support for Those Who Experience Disabilities
  • April 5: Inclusion in Our Community
  • April 12: Stigma of Mental Health in Society and Existing Supports

Packing Tape Arm Casting

Students in grades 5-8 are invited to the Norfolk Arts Center to engage in this activity that promotes unity, welcoming, and partnership. Students will work with a partner and be challenged to pick a hand gesture that two people do when they interact. Then, working together, they will create body casts of hand gestures made of packing tape.

Can You See Me? Book Discussion

The Norfolk Public Library will host a book discussion for the 5-8 grade NEA Big Read companion title Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott.

Panel Discussions

Beth Plisek, League of Human Dignity Independent Living Advocate, will facilitate two mixed panels composed of people who experience disability and professionals who provide disability services. Conversations will center on topics from Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig, to increase understanding and empathy and build a more close-knit community. Panels will be held at the District Event Center.

  • Panel 1 (March 29): Business leaders and city planners are invited to learn how to best create inclusive, accessible spaces that welcome and serve people of all abilities.
  • Panel 2 (April 19) Community members are invited to engage in conversation about disability, accessibility, and inclusion and how best to respect and serve one another.

Exquisite Corpse

Students in grades 9-12 are invited to the Norfolk Arts Center to join in this exquisite corpse experience, a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Through a series of instructor-guided steps, each collaborator will contribute to a composition that in some way be representative of individuals in the group. The final product will result in a giant, standing, rotating exquisite corpse that can be manipulated by viewers to create different combinations of a “person.”

Turtles All the Way Down Book Discussion

The Norfolk Public Library will host a book discussion for the 9-12 grade NEA Big Read companion title Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

Professional Development Session by Author Rebekah Taussig

Anyone who works in an educational setting is encouraged to join author and educator Rebekah Taussig for this free professional development session.

Somewhere between 15-20% of our students have some kind of disability. The needs of our students can vary tremendously, and the number of students who need accommodations is only increasing. The passage of laws like the ADA and IDEA required schools to provide appropriate access and resources for these students, but many are still falling through the cracks. The task of catching all these students might feel daunting, but what would happen if we saw disability in our classrooms as more than a checklist of accommodation requirements? What if disability could be a source of innovation in our approach to teaching? With a lifetime of experience in a disabled body, experience as a student and a teacher, and an education in Disability Studies, Rebekah Taussig invites teachers to reframe our thinking from mere accommodation to deep and meaningful inclusion in our classrooms. Attendees will leave with a new lens for looking at disability as well as a range of ideas to apply to our own classrooms.

Reading by Rebekah Taussig

Members of the public are invited to attend this event where Rebekah Taussig will read from her book Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body and answer questions from the audience. Taussig is a writer and teacher with her doctorate in Creative Nonfiction and Disability Studies. She runs the Instagram platform @sitting_pretty, where she crafts “mini-memoirs” about her daily life. She lives in Kansas City with her fussy family of tender-hearted snugglers. An informal reception will be held in the lower level of Union 73 prior to the reading.

Slam Poetry Event

Poets identifying as members of the disabled community will join at the Norfolk Arts Center in an evening of spoken word centered on disability, whether physical or invisible, congenital or acquired. Each artist will perform for 15-20 minutes. Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason will serve as Master of Ceremonies for this event hosted in coordination with Northeast’s Visiting Writers Series and the Nebraska Writers Collective, aiming to invite dialogue and inspire empathy. Time will be dedicated to questions and discussion, including how these performances and the artists’ lived experiences relate to Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary, Resilient, Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig and issues addressed in it.

Wrap-Up Event

Northeast Audio Recording Technology and Digital Cinema and Media students will produce a video documentary chronicling NEA Big Read: Northeast Nebraska activities and participants, serving as a capstone presentation for the wrap-up event. All are welcome to view the film and enjoy a final reception celebrating the NEA Big Read.

Educational Poster Series

Northeast Media Arts students will design a poster series providing education about how to discuss disability and inclusion with children and others. Posters will be displayed throughout the service area.

Chapbook & Traveling Exhibit

Northeast art and creative writing students will create work inspired by Rebekah Taussig’s stories or those shared by local people who experience disability. The work will become a traveling exhibit and be compiled into a chapbook; free copies will be available at select NEA Big Read events

Magazine Publication

Vast: A Literary Press will select a story developed through NEA Big Read: Northeast Nebraska programming to be featured in their free online publication, Vast Chasm Magazine.

Book Clubs

Check with your local library about book clubs and other opportunities related to the titles featured in the NEA Big Read: Northeast Nebraska.

NEA Big Read

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

El proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperación con Arts Midwest.


For More Information

Contact Jennifer Ippensen, Director of Library Services, at jippense@northeast.edu or (402) 844-7133.

Proudly Sponsored By

Healthy Blue
League of Human Dignity
Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund
Visit Norfolk Nebraska