National Endowment for the Arts Announces $1 Million in Grants to Support Community Reading Programs Nationwide

A woman sits behind a desk signing books with a crowd of people around her.

Julia Alvarez at a book signing for Universidad del Turabo, Ana G. Méndez University System’s NEA Big Read in February 2019. As part of the 2019-2020 NEA Big Read, communities in Colorado and Michigan will read Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. Photo by Joshua Feist

Washington, DC—Through support from the National Endowment for the Arts, 78 organizations across the nation will have the opportunity to come together through the joy of sharing a good book. The latest NEA Big Read grants total more than $1 million and will support community reading projects in 31 states taking place between September 2019 and June 2020.

“It is inspiring to see both large and small communities across the nation come together around a book,” said National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter. “We always look forward to the unique ways cities, towns, and organizations explore these stories and encourage community participation in a wide variety of events.”

The NEA Big Read is a National Endowment for the Arts initiative in partnership with Arts Midwest, which manages the grant program. Since 2006, more than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event. Each NEA Big Read grantee has selected a title from the NEA Big Read library and will hold a variety of events and discussions designed to both highlight the book and encourage participation among a wide range of community members. Among the books selected this year are Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, Joy Harjo’s How We Became Human, and Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea.

The 2019-2020 grants range from $5,000 to $15,000 and will reach communities ranging from Dallas, Texas, to Juneau, Alaska, to Beaver Island, Michigan, which has a population of 551. Grantees range from libraries and universities to museums and other arts organizations. A third of this year’s grantees have never before received an NEA Big Read grant.

About the NEA Big Read
Showcasing a diverse range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery. The program began in 2006, and since then the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $20 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past twelve years, grantees have leveraged more than $50 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 91,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.

Visit for more information about the NEA Big Read, including reader resources—such as book overviews, discussion questions, and interviews with the authors—as well as community stories from past NEA Big Read grantees.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

About Arts Midwest
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 30 years. For more information, please visit

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