Frequently Asked Questions

May I apply for an NEA Big Read grant as an individual?

No, applicants for NEA Big Read must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; a division of state, local, or tribal government; or a tax-exempt public library but there are many ways individuals can participate in, and/or benefit from, the NEA Big Read. You may:

  • Get some ideas for books to read and recommend to friends or for a book club by perusing the books that are part of the NEA Big Read program. You can find materials about each of the books on our website that may include: author bios, book descriptions, discussion questions, podcasts, and blog posts.
  • Visit our List of Grants to see where programming may be happening near you.
  • Follow NEA Big Read on Twitter.

How are organizations selected to participate in the NEA Big Read?

The application and guidelines for the NEA Big Read, developed by the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest, are available on the Arts Midwest website and distributed nationwide to arts, cultural, literary, and civic organizations, such as libraries, museums, and local arts agencies. Organizations chosen to receive an NEA Big Read grant are selected by a panel of outside experts who review the proposed projects for artistic excellence and merit. Competitive applications demonstrate strong literary programming, experience in building effective local partnerships, reaching and engaging new and diverse audiences, working with educators, involving local and state public officials, and working with media.

What do organizations receive if they are selected to participate in the NEA Big Read?

Selected organizations receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to support their NEA Big Read projects. In addition, the National Endowment for the Arts offers online content for each reading selection.

Prior to starting their projects, NEA Big Read grant recipients participate in a series of online activities to prepare them to host and promote the NEA Big Read in their communities. Online presentations include grant award management, strategies for hosting effective book discussions, and question-and-answer sessions featuring past NEA Big Read grantees and experts on a wide variety of topics.

NEA Big Read grantees also have access to a special website with resources to help them conduct a successful NEA Big Read program and downloadable public relations templates and design elements. Grant recipients also receive publicity materials such as banners and bookmarks.

How are books selected for the NEA Big Read library?

Suggestions for new titles are collected from a wide variety of sources, including readers from around the country, as well as NEA Big Read grantees, participants, and past Big Read panelists. The National Endowment for the Arts then seeks advice from additional readers, literary presenters, and community organizers nationwide to help narrow the list of suggestions based on criteria including the capacity to incite lively and deep discussion; the capacity to expand the range of voices, stories, and genres represented in our Big Read library; the capacity to interest lapsed and reluctant readers and/or to challenge avid readers and introduce them to new voices; and the capacity to inspire innovative programming for communities.