Safford Library gets Big Read Grant

SAFFORD — The Safford City-Graham County Library is one of 61 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2021-22 NEA Big Read grant. A grant of $13,700 will support a community reading program focusing on “The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros, in September through December 2021.

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.

“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 Safford City-Graham County Library 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 and 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 2021-22 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 NEA Big Read: Graham County brings together several Graham County organizations, including The Friends of the Safford Library, The Gila Valley Arts Council, local schools, and the Graham County Chamber of Commerce. A slate of exciting programming will begin with a kickoff event in September that includes a bilingual storytime and a community art night. Other activities during the fall of 2021 will include book discussions, movie screenings, a cooking class, and an art competition. Free copies of the book will be available countywide.

“The House on Mango Street” was the popular choice of patrons and local high school English teachers for the 2021 Big Read.  It explores the life of a 12-year-old girl growing up in Chicago in the 1980s.  Sandra Cisneros has written a unique story which mirrors her own. The book will find its way into the hands of nearly 1,800 students from seventh grade through high school, whose English and Spanish teachers have registered to participate.

Paulette LeBlanc, president of Friends of the Library, will serve as the education coordinator for the program.

“Safford Library hosted three successful Big Read projects years ago.  It’s so exciting to bring it back to our schools and our community. I am truly impressed at the number of teachers stepping up to bring The Big Read into their classrooms. Serving as their coordinator is an honor.  The book and the corresponding events will be so enriching for our students,” LeBlanc said.

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

For more information, contact the library at 928-432-4165 or see