National Endowment for the Arts Awards Cal Poly Pomona Big Read Grant

National Endowment for the Arts Awards Cal Poly Pomona Big Read Grant

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced Pomona is one of 117 communities selected for the Big Read.

The Big Read, which launched nationally in October 2006 by the NEA in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Arts Midwest, encourages literary reading by asking communities to come together to read and discuss one book.

Pomona's Big Read will take place from Oct. 13 through Dec. 1 and will feature Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya.

“The National Endowment for the Arts has given us a wonderful opportunity to support the reading of literature and unite people in our community,” said Jonnie Owens, community relations program director for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, who will oversee the use of the grant. “By reading one book and participating in a variety of creative, cultural and fun events together, we can accomplish great things in the city.”

Bless Me, Ultima, is one of the most respected works of Chicano literature. Anaya tells the story of Antonio Luna Marez, a young boy who grapples with faith, identity and death as he comes of age in New Mexico.

“I think many people in our community can relate on a cultural level,” Owens said. “However, this novel expresses universal themes; so regardless of one's ethnicity this is a book to cherish. We can't wait for people to start reading.”  

The NEA awarded Cal Poly Pomona $15,000 to carry-out a variety of community-based events this fall. Owens has already begun to work with the Pomona Unified School District, the Pomona Public Library, Historical Society of Pomona Valley, and with a variety of city officials and programs such as the Pomona Youth Advisory Committee, to brainstorm how each group can participate.

Pomona's Big Read will include events aimed at readers and nonreaders alike such as read-a-thons, film screenings, book discussions, keynote addresses, performing arts presentations, and library and museum exhibits.

“By joining the Big Read, these cities and towns are showing that reading is necessary to the cultural, civic, even economic fabric of their communities. They understand the benefit of having people from different generations and walks of life reading and discussing a great book,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “Yes, this is about reading, but it's also about getting people to leave their homes and offices, unplug themselves for a few hours, and enjoy the pleasures of literature with their neighbors.”

Modeled on successful city reads programs, the Big Read is meant to address the national decline in literary reading as documented in the NEA's 2004 landmark survey Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. The survey showed that less than half the American adult population now reads literature.

For more information on the Big Read, visit