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IMLS Joins the NEA in Celebrating the Fifth Year of The Big Read with $1 Million in Grants

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Saturday, July 10, 2010


IMLS Press Contacts
Natasha Marstiller,
Mamie Bittner,

Seventy-five Grantees Include Libraries, Arts Groups, Colleges, and Municipalities

Washington, DC—Kicking off the program’s fifth year, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) joins the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in announcing that 75 not-for-profits – including arts and cultural organizations, libraries, and universities – will receive grants totaling $1 million to host a Big Read project between September 2010 and June 2011. The Big Read brings communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 31 selections from United States and world literature, which for the first time will include Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. Since the 2006 pilot program with 10 participating organizations, the NEA, in partnership with IMLS and in cooperation with Arts Midwest, has given more than 800 grants to support local Big Read projects. Please see the complete listing of grants.

"IMLS is proud to support The Big Read, a national program that brings communities together to read and discuss books," said Marsha L. Semmel, IMLS acting director. "Through this program, libraries and museums are playing critical roles in reading partnerships across the country."

"The arts in general – and literature, in particular – often serve as an expression of our shared values. This is exactly why they are so effective as a fulcrum for community engagement," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "Thanks to these 75 grants, communities nationwide will be inspired, delighted, and challenged by a book they are discovering for the first time, or an old favorite to which they are returning."

The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs. Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, which also are available for download on Reader’s Guides include features such as author biographies, historical context for the book, and discussion questions. Teacher’s Guides are developed with the National Council of Teachers of English and State Language Arts standards in mind and include lesson plans, essay topics, and classroom handouts. The Big Read Audio Guides feature readings from the novel along with commentary from renowned artists, educators, and public figures such as Junot Diaz and Aimee Mann, and Big Read authors such as Cynthia Ozick and Ernest J. Gaines.

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.

Support for The Big Read has been provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Boeing Company, the Poetry Foundation, and the Ford Motor Company.

For more information about The Big Read please visit

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 123,000 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

About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Art 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 Arts 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

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