I just read a press release from the Institute of Museum and Library Services about their partnership with the NEA (Endowment for the Arts, not Education Association) to launch of a “new national reading program designed to revitalize the role of reading in America.”
“Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America” a 2004 National Arts Endowment report, documented a dramatic decline in literary reading—among all age groups, ethnic groups, and education levels – and galvanized a national discussion. The Big Read was developed to help reverse this trend by giving citizens in more than 100 communities in all 50 states an inviting opportunity to read and discuss great books. Each city or town that participates will host a community-wide read that involves collaborations with libraries, schools, local government, and the private sector.
The Institute will contribute $1 million in the first year of the national program and cast America’s libraries and librarians in a central role to encourage community participation.
Hmm. I am curious about how exactly the IMLS and NEA plan to go about “revitalizing the role of reading in America.” The release states that they will give grants of $10-20,000 to “more than 100 communities to conduct programs that encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.” I am all for helping jazz people up about reading, and I’m also all for giving money to libraries. But. Um. Programs that encourage people to read for pleasure and enlightenment? That sounds an awful lot like the very nice book club my (teeny tiny underfunded) local branch library offers already. I doubt it costs $10,000 to run it, even counting the fliers.
If you have a better (and more expensive) idea than a book club, the IMLS encourages you to submit a proposal.
HT: Anastasia Suen.