CU Reading Events

Events are all free and open to the public, and will be held (except as noted) at the Champaign Public Library, Robeson Pavilion Room A & B, 200 W. Green St.; The Urbana Free Library, Lewis Auditorium, 210 W. Green St.; and the Douglass Branch Library, 504 E. Grove St., Champaign.

Dr. Elliott Engel

CU Reading Kickoff: The Genius of Mark Twain with Dr. Elliot Engel

2–3 pm Sunday, September 30
Champaign Public Library

With infectious enthusiasm and wit, scholar and entertainer Dr. Elliot Engel will bring to life America’s iconic humorist, setting the stage for a deeper appreciation of this beloved author and his classic works.  Dr. Engel lives in Raleigh, NC, where he has taught at Duke University, UNC, and North Carolina State, and has earned North Carolina's Adult Education Award. He has written eight books and his articles have appeared in national magazines including Newsweek. Today he lectures year-round throughout the US and across the globe. For all ages.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” Book Discussions

2–3 pm Sunday, September 23
MacFarlane-Hood Reading Room, The Urbana Free Library

1:30–2:30 pm Thursday, October 11
Robeson Pavilion Room C, Champaign Public Library

8–9 pm Tuesday, October 16
Big Grove Tavern, 1 E. Main St. (hosted by Champaign library staff)

7–8 pm Thursday, October 18
Library Friends Conference Room, Champaign Public Library

7–8 pm Tuesday, October 23
Robeson Pavilion Room C, Champaign Public Library

The Champaign and Urbana libraries will host five community discussions of our CU Reading title. Pick a convenient time and join in! For adults.

Twain for Teens

3–4 pm Tuesdays, October 2, 9, 16, 23
Champaign Public Library

Four weeks of Twain! Middle and high school students can read and discuss a Twain short story; learn more about Twain and his times from an expert; act out some of his best scenes, reader’s theater-style; and join in games from the 1800s. 

Cave illustration from first edition

The Caves of Mark Twain’s Hannibal

2–3 pm Sunday, October 7
Champaign Public Library

Seasoned spelunker Julie Angel, earth science coordinator at Parkland College, will share the history, geology, and biology of the rare and complex underground maze that Mark Twain explored as a boy, then immortalized in Tom Sawyer. For all ages.

Mark Twain Crafts

4–5 pm Monday, October 8
Douglass Branch Library

Kids can join in crafts inspired by Mark Twain and some of his most famous titles, including The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Tom Sawyer. For school-age children.

Injun Joe and the N-Word: Wrestling with Race and Stereotype in Mark Twain’s Works

7–8 pm Monday, October 8
The Urbana Free Library

Was Mark Twain racist? Why did he use the n-word? What were his views on African Americans and American Indians, and how did they evolve? Join Twain scholar Bruce Michelson and Robert Warrior, director of American Indian Studies at UIUC, for an open conversation about these issues. For adults. See the event poster, PDF.

Illustration from first edition, detail

Lifelong Learners @ the Library:
Twain’s “Respectable” Boy:
The Fate of Tom Sawyer in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

10–11 am Wednesday, October 10
Coffee served at 9:30 am
Champaign Public Library

Dr. Matt Hurt, associate professor of English at Parkland College, will explore Mark Twain’s dark, ironic treatment of Tom Sawyer’s character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In this sequel to Tom Sawyer, Tom’s cultural authority as a “respectable” boy and his romantic imagination—which is treated with a comic and nostalgic affection in the first book—emerge as dangerous, destructive forces. Lifelong Learners @ the Library events are free and open to the public. For adults.

Tom’s Treasure Hunt

11–11:45 am Saturday, October 13
The Urbana Free Library

X marks the spot! Follow a treasure map inspired by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as we celebrate CU Reading. For families.

Mike Anderson

Stories & Songs of the River with Mike Anderson

2–3 pm Saturday, October 13
Champaign Public Library

Rivers run through our lands, our lives, and several of Twain’s best-loved tales. Through stories and songs on dulcimer, banjo, and jaw harp, Mike Anderson offers a glimpse into a musical heritage as deep as the river itself. Read more. For all ages.

The Station Theater

“My Books Are Like Water” —
A Celebration of Mark Twain
by the Station Theatre

2–3 pm Sunday, October 14
The Urbana Free Library

7–8 pm Tuesday, October 16
Champaign Public Library

A great writer and great performers come together at this special event. Experience the richness of Twain’s writing—by turns irreverent and humorous, homespun and provocative—as Urbana’s Celebration Company offers dramatic readings from the works of Mark Twain. Featuring Gary Ambler, Barbara Evans, Mathew Green, James Haas, Joi Hoffsommer, and Kay Bohannon Holley, with musical accompaniment by David Butler. Note: This event will be offered twice, with one performance at each library (performances are not located at the Station Theatre). For adults. See a poster for the Urbana event, PDF.

Mark Twain riverboat

Steamboat Stories with
Photographer Don Chamberlain

2–3 pm Sunday, October 21
Champaign Public Library

The mighty Mississippi plays a prominent role in the story of Tom Sawyer. Decatur photographer Don Chamberlain will share pictures and stories about steamboats on the Mississippi. For adults.

Storytelling with Gladys Caines-Coggswell

1:30–2:15 pm •  Monday, October 22
Douglass Branch Library

Gladys Caines-Coggswell, storyteller-in-residence at The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, will tell stories passed down to her by her great-grandmother. For school-age children.

Gladys Caines-Coggswell

“A True Story” by Mark Twain with
Gladys Caines-Coggswell

6:30–7 pm Monday, October 22
The Urbana Free Library

Gladys Caines-Coggswell, storyteller-in-residence at The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, will perform the role of Aunt Rachel in Mark Twain’s story about the life of a former slave. For all ages. See a poster for the event, PDF.

Jim Post

CU Reading Grand Finale:
Jim Post Presents
“Mark Twain and the Laughing River”

2–3 pm Sunday, October 28
Champaign Public Library

The grand finale of CU Reading features renowned folk singer Jim Post presenting a visit from Mark Twain himself. Twain enjoyed playing music and singing to entertain guests. Bring the whole family to relive that experience in a performance that the Chicago Sun Times called " ideal family show.” The Washington Post said, "Jim Post is a one-man tour de force—part musical, part drama, and thoroughly entertaining." Post's show is an established attraction in the river town of Galena, Illinois. Read more. For all ages.

Mark Twain, LOC no 3c12728u

Twain Exhibit

Twain-related items from the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at UIUC will be on display at The Urbana Free Library from Sep. 21 to Oct. 28. Read more.

Made Possible By

CU Reading is cosponsored by the Champaign Public Library and The Urbana Free Library, with support from the Champaign Public Library Friends and the Friends of The Urbana Free Library.


For more information, contact the Champaign Public Library at 217/403-2070, the Douglass Branch Library at 217/403-2090, or The Urbana Free Library at 217/367-4405.


A note about accessibility at the Champaign Public Library

Photo: Mark Twain  c. 1900
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-112728