“The Great American Read,” a new eight-part television series and nationwide campaign that explores the joy of books and the power of reading, is coming to Arizona PBS this spring.
Designed to spark a national conversation about reading and the books that have inspired, moved and shaped us, “The Great American Read” encompasses an eight-part series that will air on Arizona PBS as well as community reading programs and special events, and a wide range of digital and social media initiatives.
Key authors and other notable figures across a wide range of fields will lend their voices and passion to “The Great American Read.” Margaret Atwood, Lesley Stahl, Devon Kennard, Junot Díaz and many others will share personal stories about their favorite titles throughout the series. Journalist and television personality Meredith Vieira will host the series.
“It is a privilege to partner with PBS to bring ‘The Great American Read’ to viewers across the country,” Vieira said. “The power of reading is extraordinary – it allows us to escape to new worlds, introduces us to a diverse range of people, opens our minds to different ideas, and allows us to keep learning, no matter our age or background.”
A list of America’s 100 best loved books, selected by the public and an advisory panel of literary professionals, will be revealed April 20. Viewers will be invited to vote throughout the summer and into the fall in the first-ever national vote to choose “America’s Best-Loved Book.”
The series officially launches on air with a two-hour kick-off event on Tuesday, May 22 at 7 p.m. on Arizona PBS. The high-energy documentary special will feature appearances by celebrities and everyday Americans passionately advocating for and explaining their personal connections to their favorite books.
Throughout the summer, viewers will be encouraged to read and engage in the conversation by participating in local events, interacting on Arizona PBS digital and social platforms and by voting for their favorite book on the list at pbs.org/greatamericanread. “The Great American Read” will return to television in September with six episodes exploring the 100 nominated books through themes such as “Heroes,” “Villains & Monsters,” “What We Do for Love,” “Other Worlds,” and more. When voting closes, America’s top 10 books will be revealed in a countdown to America’s Best-Loved in the final episode of the series on Tuesday, October 23.
Voting will open with the launch of the two-hour premiere episode and continue throughout the summer, leading up to the grand finale in October 2018. Over the summer, viewers will be able to vote at pbs.org/greatamericanread and via hashtag voting on Facebook and Instagram using #GreatReadPBS. In the fall, viewers will also be able to cast their votes toll-free and by utilizing SMS voting.
After the premiere episode of the series, viewers will have an opportunity to dive deep and engage with “The Great American Read” and fellow book lovers through Arizona PBS digital and social platforms. Viewers will be invited to read, vote and share their personal connections to titles on the top 100 list and beyond over the course of the summer.
Locally, Arizona PBS will partner with local libraries across the state to engage book lovers in a variety of community and digital initiatives, including a writing contest for kids in grades K-5, sponsored by the Dairy Council of Arizona.
As a whole, “The Great American Read” will journey across America to uncover illuminating details and new reflections, sometimes from unlikely sources, about some of the titles on the top 100 book list, revealing the story behind the story from multiple perspectives. The initiative aims to spark conversation about the books that have inspired, moved and shaped us, both individually and as a society, by exploring what the novels on the top 100 list can tell us about our diverse nation, our shared values, our cultural identities and the common themes that tie us together.
“The Great American Read” is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate old favorites and discover new ones,” said Nancy Southgate, associate general manager of content for Arizona PBS. “I hope that Arizonans will join us in a summer of reading and conversation about the stories that are most meaningful to them.”
“From exploring the nature of good and evil to discovering a world far away from our own, books have the power to transform, to inspire and to stay with you long after the final page has been turned,” said Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive and general manager of general audience programming for PBS. “PBS is committed to being the home for engaging, educational and inspiring content, and we hope that ‘The Great American Read’ encourages a multi-generational dialogue about literacy in America through this search to identify America’s best-loved novel.”
“‘The Great American Read’ will speak to all Americans,” said Jane Root, founder and CEO of Nutopia, the production company that created the series in partnership with PBS. “These books tell our story, explore our passions and celebrate the depth and range of our culture. Which book will win? I don’t know, but I’m super excited to follow the journey and find out.”
To complement “The Great American Read”, PBS KIDS will host PBS KIDS READ as part of an annual summer learning initiative for children ages 2-8 and their families. PBS KIDS READ will encourage reading through a variety of resources for kids and parents, including social media engagement, digital games and tools, and downloadable activities. PBS member stations across the country will host literacy and learning events in local communities throughout the summer months.
All of the novels on the top 100 list were chosen by the American public in a specially commissioned, demographically representative national survey conducted by YouGov. An advisory panel, composed of 13 literary professionals, used their collective expertise to establish basic ground rules and minimally influence the final list to break ties and maximize variety.