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

Seventy-seven grantees include public libraries, literary organizations, YMCAs, universities, and arts councils

Washington, DC -- In Big Read author Ursula K. Le Guin's The Wave in the Mind she writes, "To me a novel can be as beautiful as any symphony, as beautiful as the sea." As part of the eighth year of The Big Read, communities across the country will have the opportunity to experience the beauty and explore the depths of a great work of literature. NEA Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that 77 nonprofit organizations will receive grants totaling $1 million to host a Big Read project between September 2013 and June 2014. Managed by Arts Midwest, The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

Please see complete listings of grants by grantee | state | book  (pdfs)

NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa said, “It's wonderful to see that these 77 communities are making reading and the celebration of books a priority. I look forward to seeing the innovative ways they find to engage their communities in these great works of classic and contemporary literature."

The Big Read provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 30 selections from U.S. and world literature, such as The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, as well as three new additions for 2013-2014: Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, Charles Portis's True Grit, and Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North.

Among the organizations receiving a Big Read grant are arts and humanities councils, libraries, museums, theater companies, and universities. The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $3,000 to $17,300 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Among these 77 organizations, 24 are first-time Big Read grantees.

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 2013-2014, proposed activities include:

  • Aurora Public Library (Aurora, Illinois), Into the Beautiful North -- Over two days, the author of the novel, Luis Alberto Urrea, will discuss his work at two public programs, one in English and one in Spanish, as well as with the students of East Aurora High School.
  • Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association (Brunswick, Georgia), True Grit -- In addition to a Western film series, programming will include a series of film screenings titled Girls with Grit featuring films with strong female characters.
  • Jump Street (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Poetry of Robinson Jeffers -- To emphasize Jeffers' love of the environment, programming will include a poetry reading followed by community clean-up.
  • Oceanside Public Library (Oceanside, California), The Maltese Falcon -- Organized in collaboration with the Oceanside Police Department and Oceanside Historical Society, programming will include a discussion titled Crime in Oceanside in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

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 Garrison Keillor and Ed Harris, and Big Read authors such as Tobias Wolff and Louise Erdrich.

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


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Go to The Big Read website for the complete book catalog, essays about the authors, audio guides, and video profiles.