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MRL Receives $10,000 Big Read Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with Arts Midwest, is pleased to announce that Massanutten Regional Library (MRL) is one of 62 organizations that will receive grants to support Big Read community programs through 2025. In total, the NEA is investing $1,075,000 to support programming centered around a book from the NEA Big Read Library, with the goal of inspiring meaningful conversations, celebrating local creativity, elevating a wide variety of voices and perspectives, and building stronger connections in each community.

Community programming during this grant cycle is focused on the theme “Where We Live.” Grantees chose their NEA Big Read book based on how its themes, characters, and setting relate to the unique aspects of their community. They will use this selection as inspiration for book discussions, writing workshops, and creative activities in collaboration with a range of local partners.

“With every page turned, the NEA Big Read fosters understanding, empathy, and connection,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Through a shared reading experience, our NEA Big Read grantees will explore their collective story and sense of place, cultivating a deeper appreciation for the diverse narratives that make up our beautiful and complex communities.”

“We live in a nation full of so many stories,” says Torrie Allen, president and CEO of Arts Midwest. “The NEA Big Read offers jumping off points for us to connect, converse, and learn about each other, all inspired by incredible books."

Grantees are from 35 states with 40 percent of the recipients receiving their first NEA Big Read grant this year. Nearly 30 percent of grantees self-identify as rural. Each NEA Big Read grantee will receive a matching grant ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to support their project.

MRL will receive a $10,000 grant that will be matched through generous sponsors and community partners in order to offer a seven-week community-based program to MRL’s service areas of the City of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, and Page County. MRL’s Big Read will take place from February 28, 2025 through April 12, 2025. MRL will be bringing Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing to the Valley through free book distribution, public readings and book discussions, family events, adult events, and the production of community collaborative art projects. The book was selected for its excellent literature and also for its resonant themes of how culture, identity, connections, heritage, and family history are honored. MRL intends to bring these themes to life through its Big Read events and through an extensive network of community partners and experts. More details on specific events and program partners will be released in late Fall 2024. Businesses interested in sponsoring The Big Read or in collaborating on planned events, should contact Mary Golden Hughes, MRL Director of Advancement.

This is the fifth Big Read grant that MRL has received from the NEA. Previous Big Reads were held as follows:

2007: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2008: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

2009: The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe

2010: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“We are honored to be selected again for this exciting community literacy initiative,” said Mary Golden Hughes, Director of Advancement for Massanutten Regional Library, 2025 Big Read co-leader, along with Kayla Grose, Adult Services Librarian and Denise Munro, Head of Youth Services. Golden Hughes was the previous leader and grant writer for MRL’s 2007-2010 Big Reads. "We greatly enjoyed our past Big Reads and reveled in the community participation, enthusiasm, and connections the program brought each time. From schoolchildren to adults, we were encouraged by the unique and meaningful ways in which our community came together through the beauty of quality literature each time. We look forward to uniting our Valley once again in early Spring 2025 through the power of reading together, listening and learning together, and discovering and celebrating the stories of our community – both known and unknown.”

About the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read 

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,800 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $25 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, NEA Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 15+ years, grantees have leveraged more than $57 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 6 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, over 100,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and over 40,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. 

Visit for more information. Organizations interested in applying for an NEA Big Read grant in the future should visit Arts Midwest’s website for more information; guidelines will be released in the Fall 2025.

About Massanutten Regional Library

Founded in 1928, Massanutten Regional Library is a nonprofit, seven branch library system that serves nearly 160,000 residents in Harrisonburg, Page County, and Rockingham County. MRL branches are located in Bridgewater, Broadway, Elkton, Grottoes, Harrisonburg, Luray and the town of Shenandoah, with administrative offices located at Central Library in downtown Harrisonburg, the system’s largest branch. Library patrons have access to over 300,000 books, DVDs, audiobooks, eBooks, online learning and research tools, and other resources free of charge. Residents can obtain a free library card by visiting their local MRL branch. MRL is a fine-free library and does not charge fines for overdue items so that there is never a financial burden for anyone using the library system. As a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization MRL is funded in partnership with state and local funding and through the generosity of patron donations.  


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