A program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the NEA 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 NEA 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 NEA 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.
Over the last decade, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,255 Big Read programs, providing more than $17 million in grants to organizations in every district in the country. In turn, these organizations have leveraged more than $35 million in local funding to support their Big Read programs. More than 4.2 million Americans have attended a Big Read event, approximately 72,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 34,000 community organizations have partnered to make Big Read activities possible.
The National Endowment for the Arts inaugurated the NEA Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with ten communities featuring four books. The program continues to expand to include more communities and new books.