Washington, DC – November 16, 2007 The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today continued its drive toward making the Big Read the largest federal reading program in U.S. history. The NEA announced that it will award grants totaling $1,598,800 to 127 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture, higher education, and science organizations to host Big Read celebrations of 16 classic novels from January-June 2008. The newest Big Read grantees represent 38 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NEA inaugurated the Big Read as a pilot project with ten communities in 2006. By 2009, approximately 400 communities in the U.S. will have hosted a Big Read since the program’s 2007 national launch.

"In just two years, the Big Read has grown from ten communities to include nearly 200 towns and cities nationwide. Although each of these communities celebrates its Big Read program in its own way, one theme we consistently hear back is that the Big Read is not just bringing citizens back to the joy of reading, but also reinvigorating the very idea of community," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "I am delighted to announce the newest round of Big Read communities in this program, which is about so much more than reading."

"The Big Read is reaching across state and international borders," said Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the NEA’s lead federal partner for the Big Read. "As director of the IMLS, the federal agency that funds libraries and museums, I am pleased to support this initiative that is creating a new generation of readers. The sky is truly the limit with this partnership."

The organizations selected to participate in the Big Read for the first half of 2008 will receive grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Participating cities and towns also receive reader’s and teacher’s guides for each novel, audio guides that also can be used as radio programming, publicity materials, an online organizer’s guide for running a successful Big Read program, and access to a comprehensive Big Read Web site. Each local program will include events, such as read-a-thons, book discussions, film screenings, and library and museum exhibits, aimed at avid and lapsed or reluctant readers alike.

The Big Read on U.S. military bases abroad

In 2008, the NEA also will expand the Big Read to include U.S. military installations abroad. Ten bases in Germany, Guam, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom will receive reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, audio guides, and other materials to host their own Big Read celebrations.

Domestic bases will continue to participate in the reading program through community partnerships with local Big Read grantees. To date, 26 military installations nationwide have participated in the Big Read through these local alliances. The Arts Endowment has previously partnered with the Department of Defense to bring arts programming to military personnel and their families through NEA national initiatives, including Shakespeare in American Communities, the Great American Voices Military Base Tour, and Operation Homecoming.

The Big Read Russia

From January-June 2008, four communities in Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania will take part in the U.S. component of Big Read Russia. These communities will host Big Read programs celebrating Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. In Russia the regions of Ivanovo and Saratov initiated Big Reads of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in October 2007. A second cross-cultural Big Read with Egypt is also expected to launch in 2008.

About 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. The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. The Big Read in the Pacific Northwest is supported, in part, by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

The NEA previously announced a partnership with the Poetry Foundation for a pilot initiative, a component of the Big Read, to celebrate great American poets and the nation’s historic poetry locales. Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts, received an inaugural grant to support a community-wide program to encourage multi-generational reading of the poetry of New England writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).

In September, the NEA partnered with XM Satellite Radio to launch a new radio series, The Big Read on XM. Building on the reading program’s success, the new series is broadcast daily weekdays on Sonic Theater (XM Channel 163) bringing the Big Read to XM’s more than 8.2 million subscribers nationwide. The September 10 premiere of The Big Read on XM featured interviews with NEA Chairman Dana Gioia and Mrs. Laura Bush, honorary chair of the Big Read.

The next Big Read application deadline is February 12, 2008, for communities wishing to host a Big Read from September 2008-June 2009.

For more information on the Big Read, including program FAQs, the complete list of Big Read novels, and application deadlines, please visit http://www.neabigread.org.

Please see http://www.imls.gov/news/2007/111607_list.shtm for the listing of Big Read grants awarded for programming in January-June 2008.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit http://www.imls.gov.

About the National Endowment for the Arts 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 http://www.arts.gov.

About Arts Midwest

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 http://www.artsmidwest.org.

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