The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced yesterday that it plans to expand the Big Read to military bases abroad. Beginning next year, military installations in Germany, Guam, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom will receive readers guides, teachers guides, radio broadcasts, and other materials that can be used to organize community-wide reading programs focusing on a single book. Domestic bases, twenty-six of which have participated in the Big Read since its inception in 2006, will continue to take part in the program through partnerships with local grantees. The United States Department of Defense has previously collaborated with the NEA to offer literary programs, including Shakespeare in American Communities and Operation Homecoming, to members of the military.
The Big Read’s expansion to military bases abroad follows the recent creation of a joint program that encourages American and international readers to discuss books of cultural significance to countries other than their own. The Big Read Russia was initiated last month, with communities in the Ivanovo and Saratov regions of Russia reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird (Lipincott, 1960); from January to June 2008, communities in Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania will read Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886). The Big Read Egypt is slated to begin next year.
By 2009, nearly four hundred communities in the U.S. and abroad will have hosted a Big Read.