National Endowment for the Arts Announces $1 Million in Grants for The Big Read

Seventy-eight grantees include libraries, arts councils, universities, museums, public broadcasting stations

Washington, DC—When was the last time you discussed a book with someone you had never met before? Or joined your neighbors in a community-wide read-a-thon? Between September 2012 and June 2013, 78 communities across the country will spend a month immersed in a great work of literature, as part of the seventh year of The Big Read. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. Seventy-eight not-for-profit organizations will receive grants totaling $1 million to host a Big Read project as part of the 2012-2013 program. The Big Read is managed by Arts Midwest.

The Big Read provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature, such asIn the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury,The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines,The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Among the organizations receiving a Big Read grant are arts councils, boys and girls clubs, libraries, public broadcasting stations, theater companies, and universities, among others. The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Among these 78 organizations, 28 are first-time Big Read grantees.

Please see the complete listing of grants.

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said, “At the NEA we know that the arts can help to create strong, vibrant communities by bringing people together. Through The Big Read, these 78 organizations are giving their communities the opportunity to share both great works of literature and memorable experiences."

Ira Silverberg, the NEA's Director of Literature, said, "Whether you're reading a used paperback or a downloaded novel on an e-reader, nothing can beat the experience of getting lost in a good book. I look forward to seeing the creative ways these 78 organizations will use The Big Read to promote reading within their communities."

Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, which also are available for download on Reader’s Guides include author biographies, historical context for the book, and discussion questions. Teacher’s Guides are developed with the National Council of Teachers of English and State Language Arts standards in mind and include lesson plans, essay topics, and classroom handouts. The Big Read Audio Guides feature readings from the novel along with commentary from renowned artists, educators, and public figures such as Michael Chabon and Ed Harris, and Big Read authors such as Ray Bradbury and Amy Tan.

Each community’s Big Read includes a kick-off event to launch the program; activities devoted specifically to its Big Read book or poet (e.g., panel discussions, lectures, public readings); events using the selection as a point of departure (e.g., film screenings, theatrical readings, exhibits); and book discussions in diverse locations aimed at a wide range of audiences.

For more information about The Big Read please visit

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, 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


Liz Auclair