The American Library Association’s Great Stories Club is a reading and discussion program that gives at-risk and 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 will reach more than 8,000 young adults. Themes for these rounds include “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.
Libraries and partner organizations selected to participate in the 2015-2017 themes are listed below.
- Selected Sites: Hack the Feed
- Selected Sites: The Art of Change
- Selected Sites: Structures of Suffering
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 three theme-related books to use in reading and discussion groups of 6 to 10 people; in-person and online training on humanities content and strategies for leading book clubs with at-risk youth; 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
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.