A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Managed by Arts Midwest, this initiative offers grants to support innovative community reading programs designed around a single book.
The Big Read supports organizations across the country in developing community-wide reading programs which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.
Each community event lasts approximately one month and includes a kick-off event to launch the program locally, ideally attended by the mayor and other local luminaries; major events devoted specifically to the book (e.g. panel discussions and author reading); events using the book as a point of departure (e.g. film screenings and theatrical readings); and book discussions in diverse locations and aimed at a wide range of audiences.
To date, the NEA has funded more than 1,200 Big Read programs, providing more than $16 million in grants. Organizations have leveraged more than $35 million in local funding to support their programs.
The National Endowment for the Arts inaugurated The Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with ten communities featuring four books. The program continues to expand to include more communities and additional books.