Big Read back on in ’11

The Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge announced on Thursday that it has received a $10,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host The Big Read 2011 in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County.

This is the fourth year in a row that the Foundation has received this honor. The Community Foundation is one of 75 not-for-profits nationwide—including arts and cultural organizations, libraries and universities—to receive a grant to host a Big Read project between September 2010 and June 2011.

The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature. The Big Read 2011 in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County will focus on Carson McCullers’ novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Activities will take place throughout March of 2011.

“We were especially honored to receive the grant this year,” commented Christiana Shields, the Foundation’s Grants Manager. “In 2009, the NEA awarded over 300 Big Read grants. This year it was cut down to only 75, many of whom were new grantees. It really speaks to the quality of programming our community has provided over the past three years.” The Community Foundation, in partnership with the Staunton Public Library, the Waynesboro Public Library, the Augusta County Library, and The News Leader, has hosted three extremely successful Big Reads, with a multitude of community assistance, featuring events all over the community in libraries, schools, restaurants, theaters, galleries, nursing homes, and clinics, among other places.

“The arts in general – and literature, in particular – often serve as an expression of our shared values.  This is exactly why they are so effective as a fulcrum for community engagement,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman.  “Thanks to these 75 grants, communities nationwide will be inspired, delighted and challenged by a book they are discovering for the first time, or an old favorite to which they are returning.”

Becky Kohler, the Community Foundation’s CEO, agrees with this. “We are thrilled to once again be included in this select group of communities. It is a wonderful opportunity for Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, and will serve as both a catalyst to bring our community together and a highly creative effort to encourage literary reading.”

The community’s 2010 Big Read, which centered around Ray Bradbury’s seminal novel, Fahrenheit 451, featured over 92 events throughout Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. In addition to the public libraries, over 32 community partner organizations participated. Books, Reader’s Guides, Teaching Guides, and other materials were also distributed free of charge to all the public high schools in the area. Several middle schools and Blue Ridge Community College also had students reading and discussing the book. “We had over 1,000 people participate in book discussions alone,” commented Shields, “not to mention the thousands of others who attended the theatrical presentations, musical events, gallery shows, and the multitude of other events that tied into the novel.”

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for The Big Read has been provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Boeing Company, the Poetry Foundation, and the Ford Motor Company.

For more information about The Big Read please visit

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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