Yesterday the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that it would grant $3,742,765 to 269 organizations nationwide to fund Big Read programming from September 2009 to June 2010. Libraries, colleges, municipalities, and arts and sciences organizations from forty-four states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will each receive grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000.
Organizations are given the funds to establish readings, discussions, and other forums for their respective communities to celebrate one of thirty novels selected by the NEA for the Big Read. Some of the recent grantees have elected to read titles such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, while others have chosen to focus on several works by specific writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson. In addition to grant money, the Big Read will provide each community with reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, and an audio recording of an established author or other public figure reading the selected work.
This fall, the NEA will also debut on the Big Read Web site four short films about authors of titles selected for the program. Video profiles of Rudolfo Anaya, Ernest J. Gaines, Cynthia Ozick, and Tobias Wolff will "offer intimate portraits of each author, including their writing philosophies, work spaces, and favorite books," according to an NEA press release.
Since 2006, when the Big Read initiative launched in ten cities, the NEA has awarded nearly eight hundred grants as part of the program.