National Endowment for the Arts Announces The Big Read
Ten communities to participate in pilot program to promote reading
December 20, 2005
Washington, D.C. – The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with Arts Midwest, today announced the pilot phase of The Big Read, a national initiative to encourage literary reading by asking communities to come together to read and discuss one book. Ten organizations were selected from a pool of 45 applicants to receive grants ranging from $15,000 to $40,000 to promote and carry out four- to six-week, community-based programs to encourage reading by teens and adults. The NEA's Big Read is modeled on successful "city reads" programs. Pilot communities, ranging in population from 7,000 to more than 4 million people, will read one of four classic novels: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
"The NEA's landmark 2004 study, Reading at Risk, showed that literary reading in the U.S. is in steep decline," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "No single program can entirely reverse this trend. But if cities nationally unite to adopt The Big Read, our community-wide reading program, together we can restore reading to its essential place in American culture. Call me naïve, but I can actually envision an America in which average people talk about To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby with the same enthusiasm as they bring to Lost or Desperate Housewives."
To encourage community-wide participation in the project, each locale will develop its own program of activities related to the selected novel in collaboration with community partners including schools and colleges, arts organizations, and local government. Program activities are scheduled to take place from February-May 2006, including read out-loud marathons with local celebrities and community leaders, film series and other presentations related to each novel and its themes, and keynote presentations on each novel and its relevance to the local community. At the end of the project's pilot phase, the NEA will evaluate each of the ten pilot programs with a goal of inviting 100 U.S. cities to participate in 2007.
In cooperation with Arts Midwest, a regional arts organization based in Minneapolis, the NEA also will provide participating communities with free program materials including an organizer's guide, reader's guides for each of the four novels, a CD featuring distinguished actors and writers, and a program web site. The NEA and Arts Midwest also will provide each community with technical assistance in implementing its Big Read program and promotional materials, including TV and radio components.
The ten participants in the Big Read pilot program are:
Arkansas Center for the Book
Florida Center for the Literary Arts/Florida Center for the Book
Fresno County Library
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library
Just Buffalo Literary Center
The Loft Literary Center
Log Cabin Literary Center, Inc.
South Dakota Center for the Book
Topeka/Shawnee County Public Library
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 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 www.arts.gov.
Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. 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 www.artsmidwest.org.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal