The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced yesterday that more than doubled the number of communities taking part in its nationwide reading program, the Big Read. One hundred seventeen cities were awarded grants to produce celebrations of American literature from September through December 2007. The Big Read, launched nationally in October 2006 by the NEA, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Arts Midwest, encourages literary reading by asking communities to come together to read and discuss one book. Laura Bush is the honorary chair of the Big Read.
“By joining the Big Read, these cities and towns are showing that reading is necessary to the cultural, civic, even economic fabric of their communities. They understand the benefit of having people from different generations and walks of life reading and discussing a great book,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “Yes, this is about reading, but it’s also about getting people to leave their homes and offices, unplug themselves for a few hours, and enjoy the pleasures of literature with their neighbors.”