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Bard College Receives Big Read Grant To Help Revitalize Literary Reading Nationwide

Germantown, Kingston, Red Hook, Rhinecliff, and Tivoli to Read and Celebrate Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson During The Big Read

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College has received a grant of $14,000 to host The Big Read in Germantown, Kingston, Red Hook, Rhinecliff, and Tivoli. The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) managed by Arts Midwest, is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. Bard College is one of 77 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host a Big Read project this academic year. The Big Read in Germantown, Kingston, Red Hook, Rhinecliff, and Tivoli will focus on Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Activities will take place from March 15 to May 2, 2014.

The Big Read comes to Northern Dutchess, Southern Columbia, and Ulster counties through a unique partnership between Bard College and the Germantown, Kingston, Red Hook, Morton Memorial (Rhinecliff), and Tivoli libraries. “Our ambitious community libraries makes The Big Read partnership possible,” says Erin Cannan, associate director of Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement. “Spanning the Hudson River and town and village borders, this Big Read will represent the very best of the vast literary and artistic resources in the Hudson Valley.” The Big Read’s mission is to create an enthusiastic community book discussion that spans ages, ethnicities, education, and geography through community events, performances, talks, and book groups. Starting March 2014, events are planned throughout the Hudson Valley at businesses, libraries, schools, and homes. Book clubs are encouraged to participate.

Kingston Library Director Margie Menard believes that libraries are traditionally a place where people come together to learn about the larger world and shared human experience. “By collectively reading and discussing great literature such as Robinson’s Housekeeping, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves as individuals as well as those around us,” says Menard. “Libraries are uniquely situated to facilitate the kinds of collaborative learning and community connections encouraged by The Big Read.”

A modern classic, Robinson’s Housekeeping is a beautiful yet challenging story about family. “Marilynne Robinson is one of the most powerful and independent voices in contemporary American thought,” says Roger Berkowitz, director of Bard’s Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities. “A riveting novelist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Robinson also is an extraordinary essayist who has been recognized with the National Humanities Medal. In both her fiction and nonfiction, Robinson probes the mysterious and the unsayable, reminding us of the marvelous human capacity to be moved by that which we can neither know nor comprehend.”

Volunteers, including event planners, organizers, workshop leaders, performers, chefs, and publicists, are needed to help with The Big Read. Please spread the word and buy a book. A donation of $15 to the Bard College Big Read helps buy a copy of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson to be given out in March. Dedicated books will be noted with a special inscription thanking donors. Become a bookworm by donating $75 for a shelf of books (10 books in total with book dedication and recognition on our donor website). For more information about The Big Read, or to volunteer, donate, or buy a book, go to or e-mail Erin Cannan at

NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa said, “It’s wonderful to see that these 77 communities are making reading and the celebration of books a priority. I look forward to seeing the innovative ways they find to engage their communities in these great works of classic and contemporary literature.”

For more information about The Big Read please visit


About The Big Read
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest.

The Big Read answers a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young. The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture would study the pages of this report in vain.

The Big Read aims to address this crisis squarely and effectively. It provides citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. The Big Read supports organizations across the country in developing community-wide reading programs, which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

Each community event lasts approximately one month and includes a kick-off event to launch the program locally, ideally attended by the mayor and other local luminaries; major events devoted specifically to the book (panel discussions, author reading, and the like); events using the book as a point of departure (film screenings, theatrical readings, and so forth); and book discussions in diverse locations and aimed at a wide range of audiences.

The NEA inaugurated The Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with 10 communities featuring four books. The Big Read continues to expand to include more communities and additional books. To date, more than 1,000 grants have been awarded to communities in the United States to host Big Reads since the program’s 2007 national launch.

About the Bard Center for Civic Engagement (CCE)
Civic engagement is at the core of Bard’s identity. The College undertakes initiatives that reflect our belief in the link between liberal education and democracy, and further Bard’s mission as a private institution acting in the public interest. The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) supports students in Annandale by focusing on student-led initiatives and internships, developing community partnerships, and expanding science and sustainability efforts. Beyond the Annandale campus, the center works closely with Bard’s vast network of programs and partner institutions in the United States and abroad. We engage with important issues, whether with local service organizations, New York State prisons, public high schools, or in universities around the globe.


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This event was last updated on 03-27-2014