2018 NEA Big Read Books: Webinar Recap

Big Read Books

Everything you need to know about the new 2018-2019 NEA Big Read books.

One book programs are taking the nation by storm. Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest hosted a webinar to discuss the new NEA Big Read books and answer questions about the grant application process. Didn’t make it? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know.

What is the NEA Big Read program?

In partnership with Arts Midwest, the National Endowment for the Arts supports over 75 dynamic community reading programs designed around a single book. Since its conception in 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 Big Read programs, with total grants over $19 million.

Who is eligible?

All applicants must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, unit of government, or tax-exempt public library. If you are not a library, you must partner with a library. K-12 schools are not eligible, but they may partner with another organization. Applications are open to all 50 states and U.S. territories. Visit here for a full list of guidelines.

Completing the application:

You can apply for the grant on the Arts Midwest website. There, you will find helpful tips and sample applications. The most important thing to remember is that the online application cannot be saved. Therefore, it is recommended to prepare your answers beforehand and complete the application in one sitting.

Important dates:

• January 24: applications are due
• January – March: applications are reviewed
• April: grantees are announced
• September 2018 – June 2019: program duration

5 key takeaways from the 2018 Big Read webinar:

1. There are four new NEA Big Read books for 2018-2019.

1. A Small Story About the Sky by Alberto Rios
2. The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka
3. Burning Bright by Ron Rash
4. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

For a full list of titles, visit the NEA website.

2. Bilingual Big Read programs are encouraged.

Having a bilingual program is a great way to engage the whole community. Many of the Big Read books are available in other languages:

1. A Wizard of Earthsea / Un Mago de Terramar – Rustico by Ursula K. LeGuin
2. Bless Me Ultima / Bendiceme, Ultima by Rudolf Anaya
3. Gilead / Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
4. In the Time of the Butterflies / En el Tiempo de las Mariposas by Julia Alvarez
5. Into the Beautiful North / Rumbo al Hermoso Norte by Luis Alberto Urrea
6. The Namesake / El Buen Nombre by Jhumpa Lahiri
7. The Round House / La Casa Redonda by Louise Erdrich
8. Station Eleven / Estación Once by Emily St. John Mandel
9. The Things They Carried / Las Cosas Que Llevaban Los Hombres Que Lucharon by Tim O’Brien
10. True Grit / Valor de Ley by Charles Portis
11. Ways of Going Home / Formas de Volver a Casa by Alejandro Zambra

3. You can gear your program towards younger readers.

Though a majority of NEA big read books are geared toward an adult audience, there is a selection that is great for young adults. Here are the six titles highlighted in the webinar:

1. Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
2. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
6. True Grit by Charles Portis

See the full list Big Read titles you can buy in bulk!

4.  Make sure your program fulfills all of these guidelines.

Per the NEA guidelines, each Big Read program must include a variety of events. Though you may hold these events at one location, it is advised to engage with others in the community by hosting events at multiple locations. Here is a list of the required events:

• A kickoff event
• A keynote event
• 10 book discussions
• 2-3 other special events

Examples of programming include poetry slams, art exhibitions, author keynotes, art workshops, reader’s theatres, panel discussions, music or dance performances, essay/art/photography contests, read-a-thons, and film screenings. Note that event types may be combined. For more program event inspiration, visit the Big Read Pinterest account.

In order to maximize impact and minimize fatigue, it is recommended that your Big Read program lasts around one month. However, this varies by program and intended audience.

5. Submit a new book idea for next year’s Big Read.

Know a book that would be great for a Big Read program? NEA would love to hear about it! They are looking for books that have the capacity to incite lively and deep discussion; expand the range of voices, stories, and genres currently represented in the Big Read library; interest reluctant readers, challenge them, and introduce them to new voices; and inspire innovative programming for communities.

Watch the complete webinar here:

Why choose BookPal to supply your 2018–2019 Big Read books?

We specialize in books in bulk. From getting you the best price possible for your large quantity book purchase to providing dedicated account management, BookPal can help you every step of the way as your plan and budget for Big Read. Need to contact the author of your Big Read book for an event? BookPal can help! We work closely with publishers and authors and would love to connect you!

Plan your Big Read with BookPal! Contact sales@book-pal.com for a custom, no obligation price quote today!

NEA Big Read Books


This post was written by Megan Habel, the marketing associate at BookPal. She is currently reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

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