Home News & Events 2018 In Review: NEA Big Read Community Connections

2018 In Review: NEA Big Read Community Connections

A new year often marks a period of reflection and gratitude and serves as inspiration to tackle the new year. At Arts Midwest, we wanted to take a moment to look back at all the adventures our Big Read grantees have taken this year. From creative programming to community partnerships, this series explores some of the highlights from the NEA Big Read in 2018.

Community Connections

Our Big Read grantees love their communities; and their communities love them back. Here are a few of the community connections that our grantees built this year.

  • At the Lewis & Clark Public Library, their community in Helena, MT used Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? to bridge differences in their community. From their final report: “Our NEA Big Read created a safe space that hadn’t existed before for talking about things we’d rather not talk about. The NEA Big Read gave us the funds to provide that space to over 2,000 people in our community with the books we gave away. Without the NEA Big Read, we would not have had the opportunity to learn, grow, create and connect through a spectacular book.”
  • From the Waukesha Public Library: Our community has read mainly classic novels for our previous all-community reads, so we were unsure how the public would respond to us choosing something more contemporary. Because our free books flew out the door faster than ever before, I feel confident in saying that it was a popular choice! Many people told us how much they enjoyed the story, as well as Celeste Ng’s writing style.

“One woman confided in us that she finished the book and immediately called her daughter to apologize for things that happened while her daughter was living at home. This book inspired great discussion, and a new book club, comprised of Waukesha moms, formed as a result of our NEA Big Read title! We happily gave them books and discussion materials to get them started.”


Waukesha Public Library NEA Big Read volunteers with free copies of Everything I Never Told You. Photo courtesy of the Waukesha Public Library.

  • To connect with younger audiences, the Missoula Public Library partnered with the Zootown Arts Community Center to plan a Family Silk Screening Night, featuring an image hand-designed by an MPL staffer, inspired by their companion read. As the Zootown Arts Community Center opened their gallery as part of the NEA Big Read programming, community members were able to make their own Big Read “Little Read” t-shirt for free.
  • The Schaumburg Public Library noted the role of creating connections through partnership, sharing: “One takeaway that our staff noticed was the importance of partnerships in the community, and working with our community in a different way than we’ve ever done before. We now know that if we did this again, it’s important for us to take time to really identify key partners in our area and to have discussions with these partners from the beginning so that they also get the buy in and recognition that they’re looking for.”
  • In Ukiah, CA, the Mendocino County Public Library encouraged their community to participate in the NEA Big Read application process, leading book discussion groups and reading selection polls to allow their community members to decide on their NEA Big Read title. From their Featured Grantee interview : ““One unique aspect of our NEA Big Read is that our community helps us select the book around which we base our grant application. This fits into our larger approach to programming for the NEA Big Read: not with the intent to impress, but the intent to have fun, to engage new audiences, and to help spread the joy of reading in our community.”


Community members at “The Wrong Grave” burial craft event. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino County Public Library.

Do you have an NEA Big Read adventure to share from 2018? Let us know! Share your story in the Discuss section in the Online Community or tweet #NEABigRead!