Great Stories Club

A Great Stories Club participant talks in during a book discussion
Above: A Great Stories Club participant takes part in a book discussion at Zion-Benton Township High School in Zion, Illinois.


The American Library Association’s Great Stories Club is a reading and discussion program that gives underserved youth the opportunity to read, reflect, and share ideas on topics that resonate with them. 


Since 2006, the Great Stories Club has reached more than 700 libraries and 30,000 young adults.

From 2006 to 2012, ALA made more than 1,000 programming grants to libraries with funding from Oprah’s Angel Network. Five theme-based series were offered: “Facing Challenges”; “Choices”; “Breaking Boundaries”; “New Horizons”; and “Second Chances.” View reading lists and supporting materials for 2006-2012 themes.

In 2015, the ALA Public Programs Office received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support three new rounds of Great Stories Club grants for libraries. Offered in 2015, 2016, and 2017, these NEH-supported programs reached more than 8,000 young adults. Themes for these rounds included “Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution”; “The Art of Change: Creation, Growth & Transformation”; and “Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide.”  View reading lists and supporting materials for 2015-2017 themes.

In 2018 and 2019, ALA will offer three additional themes of the Great Stories Club: “Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides”; “What Makes a Hero?: Self, Society, and Rising to the Occasion”; and “Growing Up Brave on the Margins: Courage and Coming of Age.”

Learn more about the 2018-2019 themes.

View a list of the 2018-2019 grantees for "Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides" and "What Makes a Hero?: Self Society, and Rising to the Occasion." 

Project Goals and Grantee Benefits

Libraries that participate in the Great Stories Club come from communities across the country, from libraries large and small, urban and rural, well-funded and under-resourced.

The goals of the Great Stories Club are to:

  • Engage youth facing difficult circumstances with powerful works of young adult literature
  • Facilitate personal exploration of universal humanities themes
  • Inspire teens to consider "big questions" about the world around them and their place in it, affecting how they view themselves as thinkers and creators
  • Offer emotional benefits by reducing feelings of depression and isolation, and encouraging empathy through peer-based discussion groups
  • Facilitate reflection and discussion of past actions and future opportunities for positive change inspired by the titles
  • Establish important connections between underserved youth, their public library, and their local librarian, as well as local nonprofits (e.g., museums, universities, cultural centers, churches, adult education centers, community centers) that have proven to be important to success after incarceration, treatment, graduation, or during other transitions
  • Contribute to improved literacy and changed, positive attitudes toward reading
  • Inspire avoidance of future negative behaviors and outcomes in the lives of participating youth

Libraries selected to participate in the Great Stories Club series receive copies of theme-related books to use in reading and discussion groups of 8 to 10 teens; in-person and online training on humanities content; dialogue facilitation training; and a variety of programming and promotional support materials.

“Last year, we were a first-time recipient (of a Great Stories Club grant). The transformation in our outreach to incarcerated teens has been astounding — from their overall participation to our relationships with the facility as a whole. We are providing better services and outreach to this at-risk population, serving some after they are released from custody and seek the library for help. Several teens remarked that they had never owned books before, and to give them books was a great job for us.” — Huntsville (Ala.) Public Library, working with Neaves-Davis Center for Children

GSC National Advisors for 2018-2020 Programs

Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides

Anna Mae DuaneAnna Mae Duane is Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of "Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race and the Making of the Child Victim" (UGeorgia, 2010); the editor of "The Children’s Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities" (UGeorgia, 2013); "Child Slavery Before and After Emancipation: An Argument for Child-Centered Slavery Studies" (Cambridge 2016), and the co-editor of "Who Writes for Black Children?: African American Children’s Literature Before 1900" (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). She is also the co-editor of "Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life." Her essays have appeared in "American Literature," "The Cambridge History of the American Novel," "Studies in American Fiction," and "African American Review." Her work has been supported by a Fulbright award, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Yale’s Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.
Ally DowdsAllyson Dowds is the Youth Technology Librarian for Teen Central at the Boston Public Library. In this role, Allyson coordinates efforts to bridge the technology gap among urban youth by working with and for youth to identify community partners as well as design and implement a STEAM-based curriculum within and beyond the walls of the library. Prior to this work, Allyson served as a Library Manager in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, working with both incarcerated men and woman since 2009. During her tenure, she established several humanities programs for inmates, including the first Art Group, a family literacy program in conjunction with a local public library, as well as a Poetry Group that was co-convened with a Pushcart Prize winning local poet. Also, she facilitated a regular reading and discussion program called ABLE MINDS (Altering Behaviors through Literary Exploration and Moderated Inquiry-based Discussion Sessions). Ally holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Loyola University of Chicago, and an MLIS from Simmons College.

What Makes a Hero?: Self, Society, and Rising to the Occasion

Maria Sachiko CecireMaria Sachiko Cecire is Director of Experimental Humanities and Assistant Professor of Literature at Bard College in New York. Her areas of specialization include children's literature, medieval literature and its reception, media studies, and cultural studies. Prior to joining Bard’s faculty in 2010, she taught at Oxford University. Maria holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago, as well as a Master of Studies and a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University. Her publications include essays in "Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination," "Arthurian Literature XXVIII," "The Journal of Children's Literature Studies," and "Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism." She received a Rhodes Scholarship in 2006.
Jenn MannJennifer Mann is the Teen lLbrarian for the Ypsilanti District Library. She has been a librarian for the past 15 years. She has been committed to youth advocacy and social justice issues for the past 25 years, including the role as a teacher, Director of Education and researcher. Jennifer conducted archival research for the 2013 documentary "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs." She has also volunteered as a book reviewer for "School Library Journal" for two years and worked on the Michigan Family History Search Project as a database indexer. As a youth librarian, Jennifer has presented at the Michigan Library Association’s annual conference, and spearheaded The Library’s Network (TLN) book drive for the Grace Lee Boggs’ School in Detroit. She has implemented numerous youth and teen programs funded through many grants, including starting a Teen Science Café, a social issues Book Club at an alternative high school, and secured a YALSA grant for technology training for teen interns.

Growing up Brave on the Margins: Courage and Coming of Age

Susana MorrisSusana M. Morris is an Associate Professor of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and co-founder of the popular feminist blog, "The Crunk Feminist Collective." Susana is the author of "Close Kin and Distant Relatives: The Paradox of Respectability in Black Women’s Literature" (UVA Press 2014) and co-editor, with Brittney C. Cooper and Robin M. Boylorn, of the anthology, "The Crunk Feminist Collection" (Feminist Press 2017). Susana is also series editor, along with Kinitra D. Brooks, of the book series "New Suns: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Speculative," published at The Ohio State University Press. Currently, she is a Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center Fellow at Georgia Tech working on her latest book project, "Electric Ladies: Black Women, Afrofuturism, and Feminism."

Anna CvitkovicAnna Cvitkovic is a Teen Librarian with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). She runs the library at Log Cabin Ranch, a detention facility for teenage boys within the Juvenile Probation Department, where youth have discovered an unlikely passion for knitting. She also leads library outreach programming for youth experiencing parenting, homelessness and other challenges, and has developed the first SFPL program specifically for transitional-aged youth (TAY). In her spare time, Anna loves roller-skating, nail art and reading in the sun, and is a terrible but enthusiastic gardener.

Learn more

Resources developed for Great Stories Club grantees are free and available for use by all libraries.

Visit the project website to learn more about the Great Stories Club and to access ready-to-implement programming resources including reading lists, discussion questions, programming tips, and customizable promotional materials.

To stay informed about upcoming Great Stories Club grants, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian e-newsletter.

The Great Stories Club is administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in partnership with ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services. Funding is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and Acton Family Giving.