Welcome to The Big Read, a program from the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American culture. The Big Read hopes to unite communities through great literature, as well as inspire students to become life-long readers.
This Big Read Teacher’s Guide contains ten lessons to lead you through Thorton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town. Each lesson has four sections: a focus topic, discussion activities, writing exercises, and homework assignments. In addition, we have provided capstone projects and suggested essay topics, as well as handouts with more background information about the book, the historical period, and the author. All lessons dovetail with the state language arts standards required in the fiction genre.
The Big Read teaching materials also include an Audio Guide. Packed with interviews, commentaries, and excerpts from the book, The Big Read Audio Guide presents first-hand accounts of why The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town remain so compelling decades after their initial publication. Some of America’s most celebrated writers, scholars, and actors have volunteered their time to make these Big Read Audio Guides exciting additions to the classroom.
Finally, The Big Read Reader’s Guide deepens your exploration with interviews, booklists, timelines, and historical information. We hope this guide and syllabus allow you to have fun with your students while introducing them to the work of a great American author.
Thornton Wilder in the role of George Antrobus in The Skin of our Teeth (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
Copyright Skip Nall/Corbis
Thornton Wilder as the Stage Manager in Our Town, 1939 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)