Written by John Starkey
When was the last time you discussed a book with someone you had never met before? Or joined your neighbors in a community-wide read-a-thon? Between September 2012 and June 2013, 78 communities across the country will spend a month immersed in a great work of literature, as part of the seventh year of The Big Read. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. Seventy-eight not-for-profit organizations will receive grants totaling $1 million to host a Big Read project as part of the 2012-2013 program. The Big Read is managed by Arts Midwest.
The Big Read provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature, such as In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson.
Among the organizations receiving a Big Read grant are the Irving Public Library ($16,000), Friends of the Dallas Public Library (15,000) as well as arts councils, boys and girls clubs, libraries, public broadcasting stations, theater companies, and universities, among others. The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Among these 78 organizations, 28 are first-time Big Read grantees.
“At the NEA we know that the arts can help to create strong, vibrant communities by bringing people together,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “Through The Big Read, these 78 organizations are giving their communities the opportunity to share both great works of literature and memorable experiences."
"Whether you're reading a used paperback or a downloaded novel on an e-reader, nothing can beat the experience of getting lost in a good book,” said Ira Silverberg, the NEA's Director of Literature. “I look forward to seeing the creative ways these 78 organizations will use The Big Read to promote reading within their communities."
Each community’s Big Read includes a kick-off event to launch the program; activities devoted specifically to its Big Read book or poet (e.g., panel discussions, lectures, public readings); events using the selection as a point of departure (e.g., film screenings, theatrical readings, exhibits); and book discussions in diverse locations aimed at a wide range of audiences.
Source: The National Endowment for the Arts