We the People Bookshelf on "Picturing America" (HISTORICAL)

About the We the People Bookshelf on "Picturing America"
As part of its  We the People program, NEH is collaborating with the American Library Association (ALA) to present the  We the People Bookshelf, a program that encourages young people to read classic books and explore themes in American history, culture, and ideas. School libraries (K–12) and public libraries are invited to apply for a full set of books that embody in one way or another the theme “Picturing America.”

Administered by:

Public Programs Office logo

Award and Frequency

Successful applicants will receive a set of 17 classic hardcover books for young readers and supplementary materials.
The following titles are included:
  • Kindergarten to Grade 3: “Walt Whitman: Words for America” by Barbara Kerley; “Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez” by Kathleen Krull; “Cosechando esperenza: La historia de César Chávaz” by Kathleen Krull (translated by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy);”The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; “Sweet Music in Harlem” by Debbie Taylor
  • Grades 4 to 6: “The Birchbark House” by Louise Erdrich; “American Tall Tales” by Mary Pope Osborne; “On the Wings of Heroes” by Richard Peck; “Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule” by Harriette Gillem Robinet; “The Captain’s Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe” by Roland Smith
  • Grades 7 to 8: “The Life and Death of Crazy Horse” by Russell Freedman; “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving; “La leyanda de Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (translated by Manual Broncano); “Across America on an Emigrant Train” by Jim Murphy; “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain
  • Grades 9 to 12: “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” by Joseph J. Ellis; “Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange” by Elizabeth Partridge; “Travels with Charley in Search of America” by John Steinbeck; “Viajes Con Charley – En Busca de América” by John Steinbeck (translated by José Manuel Alvarez Flórez); “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Bonus: “Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out” by The National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance; “1776: The Illustrated Edition” by David McCullough
This award is not currently being given out.


 All public libraries and school libraries (K–12) in the United States and its territories are eligible to apply. School libraries (K–12) include public, private, parochial, charter schools, and home school consortia. Libraries with collections that circulate to the general public and offer reading–based programs for the general public are eligible to apply. Libraries may also collaborate with other (non–library) organizations to develop and deliver programs; however, the Bookshelves must be housed in the libraries to which they are awarded.
Individuals, organizations other than libraries, and schools and libraries operated by Federal entities, such as the Department of Defense, are not eligible to apply.
Applications may be submitted by:
    * individual libraries applying on their own;
    * more than one library within each town, county, state, or system;
    * library systems or school districts applying on behalf of multiple branches or schools; and
    * libraries that apply on behalf of multiple libraries within a community.
Ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Applicant Responsibility

In return for receiving a Bookshelf, libraries are required to organize programs that introduce the books and the “Picturing America” theme to the library’s students, young patrons, or intergenerational audiences.
In addition to the books, libraries will receive supplemental materials to help with publicity and administration of public programs.
Programs should take place within the recipient school or library, although programs may also extend beyond the library walls through collaboration with other school or public libraries.
NEH encourages collaboration among libraries within school districts or library systems to encourage young people to reflect on the theme “Picturing America.” The online application process makes it possible for the central office of a school district or library system to apply on behalf of all of its member libraries, up to a total of 100. If you submit an application on behalf of multiple schools or libraries, you as project director will be responsible for communicating with each participating library about the project: sharing with them the narrative statement, notifying them of the award, and checking program status with each of them during the grant term.
Libraries may also collaborate with other (non–library) organizations to develop local history displays, intergenerational story hours, living history presentations, or public events focused on “Picturing America” illuminated by one or more of the books. Activities might include, but are not limited to:
*prominent display of the Bookshelf to promote patron awareness;
*a program of readings based on the Bookshelf by local civic and business leaders;
*special story hours featuring one or more books and exploring specific historical or cultural themes it (or they) illuminate;
*a panel discussion with community leaders and teachers highlighting the “Picturing America” theme and how the books express that theme in literary form;
*a book club for young readers based on the Bookshelf;
*ribbons or certificates to recognize young readers who read all the books in their age category;
*discussion of the books on local cable TV and radio programs; or
*the presentation of one of the books as a play, after which children are encouraged to discuss the theme of “Picturing America” illuminated by this work.

Application Instructions

This grant is no longer available.

Contact Information

Displaying active committee roster as of 07/09/2020. Last retrieved on 07/09/2020. Members can log in to view full contact information for committee members.

Selection Criteria

 Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
    * How well conceived are the programs, and how likely are they to appeal to the intended audience, whether it is young readers in a school, the young patrons of a library, or a broader public community?
    * Do the proposed programs actively encourage young people to read specific books included in the “Picturing America” Bookshelf?
    * How effectively will the applicant make use of the We the People books to engage library patrons in exploring the “Picturing America” theme?
    * How committed is the library to promoting ongoing interest in the Bookshelf?
    * If a library indicates past experience with one or more We the People Bookshelves, to what extent has the Bookshelf become an integral part of the library’s educational programming?