About the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read

The NEA Big Read—a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest—broadens our understanding of ourselves and our neighbors through the power of a shared reading experience. The goals of the NEA Big Read are to inspire meaningful conversations, celebrate local creativity, elevate a wide variety of voices and perspectives, and build stronger connections in each community.

The NEA Big Read annually provides support to selected nonprofit organizations around the country to host dynamic community-wide reading programs in collaboration with local partners to develop and conduct engaging events and activities. Organizations apply for funding through a grants program managed by Arts Midwest. Each community program that receives an NEA Big Read grant—which ranges between $5,000 and $20,000—is also provided with resources, outreach materials, and training on various aspects such as working with local partners, developing public relations strategies, and leading book discussions and Q&As.

NEA Big Read programs may last as short as a week or as long as several months. Grantees will facilitate book discussions, writing workshops, and creative programming that celebrates the unique aspects of their communities. Activities will seek to include local artists and welcome participation from a wide range of audiences.

“The book taught us how to talk to and trust one another so that we could ultimately approach issues that were difficult and immediate,” writes one NEA Big Read participant, echoing the sentiments of many other participants around the country. Studies show that reading for pleasure reduces stress, heightens empathy, improves students' test scores, slows the onset of dementia, and makes us more active and aware citizens. Book clubs and community reading programs extend these benefits by creating opportunities to explore together the issues that are relevant to our lives.

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,800 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $25 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, NEA Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 17 years, grantees have leveraged more than $57 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 6 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, more than 100,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and over 40,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.