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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Big Read Evolves!

By now you have probably heard, but I want to mention it anyway, The National Endowment for the Arts has revamped their Big Read grant program. As reported in the Booklist Reader:
Earlier today, the NEA Big Read program—the National Endowment for the Arts’ literature initiative—announced that it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary by adding 13 new titles to the books the organization uses in programs at schools and public libraries. The organization has switched its focus, according to the press release, from classic tales to “contemporary authors and books written since the founding of the NEA 50 years ago.”
This addition of new titles with a focus on authors who are from diverse American backgrounds AND whose books were written in the last 50 years is a big deal for libraries all over the country.

The authors of the newly added books.
Click here to see a full list of the approved titles both new and old.
The Big Read has given out millions of dollars to libraries, money without which these large scale communities reads could not happen. Click here for the about page with all of the details. Most libraries have to apply for this grant to be able to have theses popular events but the catch is, you have to use one of the official “Big Read” titles.

With the addition of these new titles and the ones that remain from a purge to make room for these new books, there is now a much better list for libraries from all over the country to choose from. There are books that represent a wide range of genres and populations [both ethnically but also geographically].  The list is more varied to represent the “American” experience in it’s totality but most importantly, every single one of these titles provides opportunities to have rich and rewarding discussions.

That is the point of the Big Read, to take a book and have a community wide conversation about it.  Many libraries had avoided applying for Big Read grants because of the title choices. I am hopeful that with this influx of fresh, diverse, and contemporary titles the Big Read will become an option for more communities than ever before, opening up the powers and pleasures of the library to thousands of new patrons. And isn’t that the point of these programs-- to show our communities how vital the public library can be to their lives. This list of books will help to make that happen.

I am so excited because I truly believe that lives will be profounded effected and enriched by this change. Thank you NEA for stepping up to the plate and being brave enough to evolve in a way that many government funded programs have not been able to do. I am proud that my tax dollars go to this program.

If you are interested in pursuing a Big Read Grant for your community, click here.

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