June 19 – June 26, 2008 Edition

Libraries to Get
$2 Million in NEA
Grants For “Big Read”

WASHINGTON, DC/6/16/08–This September The Big Read is giving even more of the nation’s cities and towns something to talk about. Today the National Endowment for the Arts announced that 208 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture, and science organizations will receive grants totaling $2,810,500 to host Big Read celebrations between September 2008 and June 2009. The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 23 selections from American and world literature. The newest Big Read grantees represent 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the NEA has given more than 500 grants to support local Big Read projects.

See a complete listing of the grantees.

“Everything the NEA does we do in partnership. I am delighted to announce our 208 new partners in The Big Read. Some are new to the program, some are returning, but all of them have answered the call to action to get our country reading again,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia.

“With this latest round of grants, I am proud to say that The Big Read has supported more than 500 public library partnerships,” said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the NEA’s lead federal partner for The Big Read. “Through this program, public libraries continue to demonstrate their value in communities as centers of engagement, literacy, and lifelong learning. I am particularly delighted by the innovative public programming born out of library and museum collaborations.”

The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title. Reader’s Guides include features such as author biographies, historical context for the book, and discussion questions. Teacher’s Guides adhere to National Council of Teachers of English standards and include lesson plans, essay topics, and reproducible handouts.

The Big Read Audio Guides, which also can be used as radio programming, feature readings from the novel along with commentary from renowned artists, educators, and public figures such as Robert Redford, Colin Powell, and Mary-Louise Parker, and Big Read authors such as Amy Tan and Ray Bradbury. With support from IMLS, the Audio Guides for 14 titles from The Big Read library also will be provided to more than 14,000 public libraries nationwide.

Ford Motor Company Supports The Big Read

To help build awareness of The Big Read, the Ford Motor Company has donated a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid to the program. With its colorful design featuring The Big Read’s logo, the vehicle will help inspire new readers as Big Read program staff crisscross the country to attend and speak at Big Read events.

“As a company, Ford has a strong commitment to education, and we are delighted to continue that commitment by contributing to such a great effort,” said Ziad Ojakli, Group Vice President, Government and Community Relations for Ford Motor Company. “We can’t think of a better use for one of our hybrid vehicles than to help bring The Big Read to communities across America.”

The Big Read Mexico

The NEA will launch The Big Read Mexico this fall with two pilot projects focusing on the new anthology Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories. The El Paso Public Library will host Big Read activities in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College will host Big Read activities in Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico.

Created especially for The Big Read, Sun, Stone, and Shadows features short fiction by Mexican writers such as Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, and Rosario Castellanos. The anthology, which will be published in English and Spanish versions by Mexico’s Fondo de Cultura Económica, will feature an official Big Read seal.

The NEA previously announced The Big Read Russia and The Big Read Egypt/US, the latter a partnership with the US Department of State and Arts Midwest. The international Big Read projects include activities such as virtual exchanges, participation by international literary and cultural figures in US programming, and other cross-cultural activities.

The Big Read Library

A complete list of the 23 titles currently featured in The Big Read library is available at The NEA recently announced the addition of four selections that will be available for Big Read projects taking place from September 2009-June 2010: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Bridge of San Luis Rey together with Our Town by Thornton Wilder, and a special collection of poetry and short fiction by Edgar Allan Poe. Several US publishers, including Random House, Picador, and Grand Central Publishing, are supporting The Big Read by identifying select titles with the official Big Read seal.

Please see the complete list of titles in The Big Read library.

About The Big Read

The Big Read is an NEA initiative designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for The Big Read is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Big Read in the Pacific Northwest is also supported, in part, by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Application guidelines for the next grant cycle, September 2009-June 2010, will be available on The Big Read web site in October 2008.

The NEA previously announced three grants to California organizations for The Big Read: The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. The Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, the National Steinbeck Center, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, will each receive a grant to host a range of activities centering on Jeffers’s life and work. These grants are part of a pilot initiative in partnership with the Poetry Foundation to celebrate the nation’s historic poetry sites.

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit