Reading Together for a Better Starkville

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Starkville Reads, founded in 2005 by Harry Freeman and Nancy Jacobs, is an all-volunteer group of people who organized and presented the first program in the spring of 2006 to encourage reading in Starkville and the surrounding area.  Starkville's first citywide book project began with a March 7, 2006, reception featuring the author of the premier book selection, Mississippian John Armistead. Some 100 book lovers attended the opening night reception of “Starkville Reads” held at the Starkville Public Library. Armistead, author of Return of Gabriel, signed his book and presented a reading from his compelling novel staged during the 1960s. The story tells of three young teenagers whose lives are irrevocably changed as a result of racial unrest which accompanied desegregation in the South. Armistead delighted those in attendance with his wit and his serious comments. A  highlight of the evening was the Readers' Theatre written and produced by Dr. Clyde Williams and presented by a small troupe composed of Dr. Robert Anderson and four Starkville High School students: Charles Jefferson, Trequon Tate, Sam Pote, and Cooper Kennard.

The 2006 Fall Book Selection was The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War by Mississippian Howard Bahr. The book is a New York Times Notable Book and the Winner of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Bahr gave a well-received reading and talked to the large audience about his book and the Civil War.

In 2007 Starkville Reads received a National Endowment for the Arts BIG READ grant for To Kill a Mockingbird and the Literature Director of the NEA, David Kipen, was the keynote speaker. Many activities in connection with the novel included Nash Street, book discussions, panels, authors Unita Blackwell and JoAnne Prichard Morris (wife of Willie Morris) who co-wrote Barefootin', and Charles J. Shields, author of Mockingbird:  A Portrait of Harper Lee.

Starkville Reads received another NEA grant for the fall of 2008 for Jack London's The Call of the Wild, which again included many activities and famous people. Numerous grants have also come from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Starkville Rotary Club, the Starkville Area Arts Commission, SOAR, and the City of Starkville.

Since that time, thousands of people have benefited by the many programs.   Information about most of the programs presented by Starkville Reads are available in the Archives on this web site at

Believing that reading improves and enriches lives, Starkville Reads has actively tried to increase the number of readers in the larger community by sponsoring regularly, among other things, a One Book, One Community project. Numerous book discussions about these books have been held at the Starkville Public Library, Oktibbeha County Historical Society Museum, MSU honors classes, MSU Grisham Room, Barnes and Noble at MSU, Starkville High School, MUW, the Sportsplex, the city jail, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Three Generations Tea Room among others.  Programs have included Author's Nights, speakers, panel discussions, essay contests, Readers' Theaters (in sponsorship with the Starkville Community Theater), free books placed in Baskets of Books around town, MSU cheerleaders and Bully reading to children at the public library and cheering for reading with pizza supplied by the MSU Alumni Association,  films based on the One Book choices shown outdoors on the building at Armstrong Middle School and at the MSU honors dorm, reading aloud to children at the Sudduth Elementary School,  having the MSU baseball team meet the children at the library and read a children's book (in conjunction with The Natural and other book choices ), and, most importantly, supplying many copies of the One Book choices each term to the various local libraries (Starkville Public Library, Maben and Sturgis Library Branches, Starkville High School Library, Armstrong Middle School, Ward-Stewart Elementary library, West Point Middle School classroom, Oktibbeha County School classes, and Starkville Academy) using Starkville Reads funds and grants to be sure that  enough free books are available for the community to read.  Starkville Reads maintains a web site at and for sometime published a For Readers column in the Starkville Daily News. 

The organization's goal is to encourage more people to read and to make Starkville a more literate and interesting place to live by exposing members of our larger community to important literature and the joy of reading. It also seeks to encourage the reading of regional authors whose books have gotten high praise from critics. Its motto is "Reading Together for a Better Starkville."


Want to become a member? Join us for the next meeting. Starkville Reads meets every third Wednesday at 4:45 pm at the Starkville Public Library.




Starkville Reads programs are free to the public, but tax deductible contributions are very much appreciated and may be mailed to

Starkville Reads
P. O. Box 80100
Starkville, MS 39759

Starkville Reads Thanks Its 2010-2012 Contributors



Updated April 4, 2013
Web Page by Nancy N. Jacobs




Mississippi Writers and Musicians

Contact Us

Starkville Reads Founding Advisory Board 2005-2006

Starkville Arts Council

NEA Big Read

International Children’s Digital Library







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