The Big Read

Posted: January 14, 2020

Deadline: January 29, 2020

Grantor: National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Additional Information
The NEA Big Read annually supports approximately 75 dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read book. Selected organizations receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, digital resources, and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

NEA Big Read applicants submit proposals to host a series of community events presented at a variety of locations over the course of one month or longer. Events use the same NEA Big Read book as a point of departure and encourage participants to engage both with the book and fellow community members.

Each NEA Big Read program includes: a kick-off event, often attended by high-profile leaders and other local luminaries; major events inspired by the content and themes from the book (e.g., panel discussions and author readings); artistic events related to the book (e.g., art/writing contests, film screenings, and theatrical performances); and book discussions in diverse locations involving a wide range of audiences.

Grants range from $5,000 to $15,000 each.

An applicant organization must
  • Comply with federal eligibility requirements. For example, an applicant must be a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, a unit of state or local government, or a federally recognized tribal community or tribe. You can check your IRS status here.
  • Partner with a library (if the applicant organization itself is not a library). University and college applicants must partner with a library that is not directly affiliated with their educational institution.
  • Choose one of the 32 available reading selections. Applicants that have received an NEA Big Read grant in the past must choose a different reading selection from their previous award.
Eligible applicants include organizations such as arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, colleges and universities, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments.

How to Apply
To apply for an NEA Big Read grant you must complete the intent to apply form online after which you will receive an invite to the NEA Big Read online community and a link to the application. The online application must be submitted on or before Wednesday, January 29, 2020.

Program Contact
If you have questions about the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, application components, or the application guidelines, please call Arts Midwest at (612) 238-8010 or email

Back to Listing