Public Library of Mount Vernon & Knox County Receives a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Grant


Mount Vernon Community to Read and Celebrate Sandra Cisneros’ The House On Mango Street From February-May 2022

June 16, 2021—MOUNT VERNON, OHIO—The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County is one of 61 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2021-2022 NEA Big Read grant. A grant of $19,714 will support a community reading program focusing on The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, in Spring 2022. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

“The Library is so excited about this grant,” says Development and Writing Program Manager Jamie Lyn Smith-Fletcher. “It provides our community with the opportunity to explore Sandra Cisneros’ significant literary work alongside the work of other American writers, artists, and performers of LatinX descent. We have some really amazing dance, comics, film, food and poetry events coming to Knox County as part of this program. It’s an honor.”

Sandra Cisneros is a renowned writer whose poems, novels, essays, short stories and plays “explore the lives of the working-class.”  She is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the National Medal of the Arts, the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Since its first publication in 1983, The House on Mango Street has sold over six million copies. The House on Mango Street won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award, and is taught and read in schools and universities across the United States. Set in working-class Chicago in the 1960’s, The House on Mango Street provides a story that invites all readers to connect through the very human experience of growing up, finding your voice, achieving autonomy, and seeking a place to call home.

For 15 years the NEA Big Read has supported opportunities for communities to come together around a book, creating a shared experience that encourages openness and conversations around issues central to our lives,” said Ann Eilers, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “We congratulate the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County for receiving an NEA Big Read grant and look forward to a wide variety of meaningful community events.”

The NEA Big Read offers a range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection.

“We’re inspired by the creativity of this year’s NEA Big Read grantees, who are finding new ways to bring people together after a challenging year,” said Torrie Allen, President & CEO of Arts Midwest. “We are proud to support these organizations and communities as they explore the richness and diversity of American history and culture together through reading.”

The books available for the 2021-2022 NEA Big Read explore different aspects of American history and culture. Grantees are developing programming that helps communities to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are today, and where we’re going.

The Public Library’s plans for the NEA Big Read include partnerships with the Mount Vernon Arts Consortium, The Kenyon Review, Office for Community Partnerships, Mount Vernon Nazarene University Department of English, and the Brown Family Environmental Center. Program events include a book giveaway, MakerSpace crafts for tweens and teens, performance by Toledo, Ohio-based El Corazón de México Ballet Folklórico, a reading by poet Ada Limón, a comics workshop with Frederick Luis Aldama, and LatinX foodways classes at the Library.

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,700 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $23 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 15 years, grantees have leveraged more than $50 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, over 90,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and over 40,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. For more information about the NEA Big Read, including book and author information, podcasts, and videos, visit

A full listing of program events will be available on the Library’s website in early 2022. As with all library programs, the NEA Big Read Events will be free and open to the public. For more information about the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, please visit our website at

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

Arts Midwest believes that creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest grows, gathers, and invests in creative organizations and communities throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six nonprofit United States Regional Arts Organizations, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 30 years. For more information, visit


Information courtesy of the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

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