National Endowment for the Arts Launches the Big Read, Nation's Largest Book Club
NEA seeks to increase literary reading with invitation to cities to apply for 100 grants
Institute of Museum and Library Services joins the Big Read as NEA's lead partner
May 9, 2006
New York, NY - The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today announced the Big Read, a new national reading program designed to revitalize the role of reading in American public culture.
The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides leadership and funding for the nation's 17,500 museums and 122,000 libraries.
The landmark NEA report "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America" (2004) documented a dramatic decline in literary reading - among all age groups, ethnic groups, and education levels - and galvanized a national discussion. The Big Read was developed to help reverse this trend by giving citizens in more than 100 communities in all 50 states an inviting opportunity to read and discuss great books.
The announcement was made today from Carnegie Hall in New York City, by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, who invited communities nationwide to participate in the Big Read.
"The Big Read aims to revive literary reading in America," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "We want people of all ages across the country to enjoy the social aspects of reading and the enthusiasm that's generated by discussing a good book in a library, with a neighbor, a classmate, or a co-worker. I'm not a betting man, but I'd wager those who join the Big Read will be hooked on the joys of great literature."
IMLS is supporting the Big Read with a contribution of $1 million for the first year of the national program.
"We are delighted to be a partner in the Big Read," noted Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the IMLS. "Libraries are 'information central' in communities everywhere. Encouraging library participation will assure that the Big Read has big impact in cities and towns across the United States."
"Think of a national book club – potentially with a chapter in every community," said Chairman Gioia.
Former Congresswoman Patricia Scott Schroeder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), also spoke about the importance of reading and the support of members of her organization.
The Big Read will be administered by Arts Midwest, a regional arts agency based in Minneapolis, MN.
Big Read Book Selections
The NEA invites communities to read and discuss the dilemmas, conflicts, and hopes found in great books. The books chosen for the Big Read, all modern American classics, have all been used successfully in city reads programs and book clubs across the country. As the foundation of their programming, communities will choose one novel from an ever-expanding list of books with support materials developed by the NEA.
The initial books available for the Big Read are: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; My Ántonia by Willa Cather; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. A distinguished group of artists, authors, critics, educators, and librarians have formed a Readers Circle to develop a more comprehensive list of books for the Big Read. Some charter members of the Readers Circle are Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress; Pico Iyer, writer; Jim Lehrer, journalist; Azar Nafisi, author; Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut state poet laureate; song writer Aimee Mann; and Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl.
Big Read Funding and Resources
Today the NEA invites cities and communities across the country to take part in the Big Read through an RFP process. The Arts Endowment will award grants generally ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to 100 communities to conduct month-long community-based programs that encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. Each selected city or town is required to produce a comprehensive community-wide read that involves collaborations with libraries, schools, local government, and the private sector. Each community will develop a program of activities related to its chosen novel, such as a keynote session, special events, and book discussions aimed at a diverse range of audiences.
In addition to direct grants, the NEA offers each community a library of resources. These materials include reader's and teacher's guides for each novel; CDs for each book with commentary from renowned literary figures and educators; an online organizer's guide for running a successful Big Read Program, and a comprehensive website. In addition, the NEA has produced promotional materials to encourage broad participation, including television public service announcements, and radio programming.
For more information, or to find out how your organization can submit a proposal to join the Big Read, please visit www.neabigread.org.
In continuing its support of the NEA's outreach to the armed forces, The Boeing Company is generously supporting the Big Read on military bases and surrounding communities. The Boeing Company also supports the NEA's Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, a literary project for troops returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan and their spouses, and Great American Voices Military Base Tour, which brings free performances by 24 opera companies to 39 military bases across the country.
The Community Foundations of America and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation also will support the Big Read through matching grants to encourage participation and support from local community foundations.
This year, the National Endowment for the Arts marks its 40th anniversary of leadership in the arts. The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts – both new and established – bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit www.arts.gov.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a "Nation of Learners" because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation. To learn more about the Institute, please visit: www.imls.gov.
Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest's history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit www.artsmidwest.org.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal