The Big Read Becomes The Largest Federal Literature Program Since The W.P.A.
National Endowment for the Arts closes in on 200 cities reading great literature with latest round of more than $1.5 million in grants
Institute of Museum and Library Services partnership helps program continue to grow
June 25, 2007
Washington, DC -- The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today more than doubled the number of communities taking part in its nationwide reading program, the Big Read. One hundred seventeen cities were awarded grants to produce celebrations of American literature from September through December 2007. The Big Read, launched nationally in October 2006 by the NEA, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Arts Midwest, encourages literary reading by asking communities to come together to read and discuss one book. Mrs. Laura Bush is the honorary chair of the Big Read.
"By joining the Big Read, these cities and towns are showing that reading is necessary to the cultural, civic, even economic fabric of their communities. They understand the benefit of having people from different generations and walks of life reading and discussing a great book," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "Yes, this is about reading, but it's also about getting people to leave their homes and offices, unplug themselves for a few hours, and enjoy the pleasures of literature with their neighbors."
The organizations selected to participate in the Big Read for the second half of 2007 will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Participating communities also receive reader's guides and teacher's guides for each novel, audio guides that also can be used as radio programming, publicity materials, an online organizer's guide for running a successful Big Read program, and access to a comprehensive Big Read Web site. Each Big Read project will include events aimed at readers and nonreaders alike such as read-a-thons, film screenings, author visits, book discussions, keynote addresses, performing arts presentations, and library and museum exhibits.
"We are pleased to announce this second round of Big Read grants. The first round grantees created innovative and exciting partnership activities that exceeded our expectations," said IMLS Director Anne-Imelda Radice, Ph.D. "We're eager to support these additional communities in launching their collaborative efforts. Through the Big Read, IMLS and NEA are assisting people all across the country as they come together in community to rediscover the great American novel."
Modeled on successful "city reads" programs, the Big Read is meant to address the national decline in literary reading as documented in the NEA's 2004 landmark survey Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. The survey showed that less than half the American adult population now reads literature.
Communities participating in the Big Read this fall/winter will celebrate one of 12 classic American novels: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; My Ántonia by Willa Cather; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett; A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan; or The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
The next Big Read application deadline is July 31, 2007, for communities wishing to host a Big Read program between January and June 2008. Communities participating in the Big Read for the first half of 2008 can choose from among all of the above titles and three additional novels: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, or The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick.
As previously announced, the NEA is also launching an international Big Read with Russia. Communities that choose to participate in the cross-cultural Big Read will read and discuss The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. The application deadline is also July 31, 2007. Russian Big Read communities will celebrate To Kill a Mockingbird. The NEA and the U.S. Embassy in Russia plan to coordinate cultural exchange activities as part of Big Read Russia, including visits by Russian cultural representatives to participating Big Read communities in the U.S.
The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. The Big Read for military communities is made possible by The Boeing Company. Support for the Big Read also has been provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, through a matching grant initiative administered by Community Foundations of America. The Big Read in the Pacific Northwest is supported, in part, by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
For more information on the Big Read or for application guidelines, please visit www.neabigread.org.
Please see the complete list of 2007 Cycle 2 Big Read communities.
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. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. For more information, 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