NEH grants ALA $350,000 for book clubs for at-risk youth

For Immediate Release
Tue, 03/24/2015


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office


CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) has been granted $350,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion program for at-risk youth.

The Great Stories Club funding will introduce more than 8,000 young adults to accessible and thought-provoking literature selected by humanities scholars to resonate with reluctant readers struggling with complex issues like incarceration, violence and poverty. Librarian advisors will consult on material selection, assist with development of programming guides and best practices for libraries and provide training for grantees.

First offered as a pilot in 2006, ALA’s Great Stories Club has reached 670 libraries in 49 states and more than 30,000 young adults (ages 12 to 21). Selected titles have included “Born Blue,” a novel by Han Nolan about the daughter of a heroin addict and her pursuit of a singing career, and “The First Part Last” by Angela Johnson, about a 16-year-old New York boy becoming a father.

Great Stories Club programming grants will be available to libraries of all types that are located within or working in partnership with organizations that serve at-risk young adults, including alternative high schools, juvenile justice organizations, homeless shelters and foster care agencies, teen parenting programs, residential treatment facilities and other nonprofit and community agencies.

Additional information and application guidelines for the Great Stories Club will be released in July 2015. The grant will be administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in partnership with the Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), including the Library Services for Youth in Custody and Library Services to the Incarcerated and Detained interest groups.

NEH announced a total of $22.8 million in awards for 232 humanities projects on March 23. Other funded projects include support of a 10-part documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on the Vietnam War, and funding to digitize a collection of letters written by military servicemen and women from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts.

“In the 50 years since NEH’s founding, the Endowment has supported excellence in the humanities by funding far-reaching research, preservation projects and public programs,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “The grants announced today continue that tradition, making valuable humanities collections, exhibitions, documentaries and educational resources available to communities across the country.”

The Great Stories Club is being advised by Laura Bates, professor of English at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana; Amy Cheney, program director for the Juvenile Hall “Write to Read” program at the Alameda County Library in San Leandro, California; Maria Sachiko Cecire, director of Experimental Humanities and assistant professor of literature at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Allyson Dowds, head librarian at the Bay State Correctional Center, a medium security, all-male state prison in Massachusetts; Nicholas Higgins, director of outreach services at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York; and Laura Rogers, director of the Writing Center and assistant professor of the Department of Humanities at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, New York.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About ALA’s Public Programs Office

ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives.

About the Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies

The Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) is the premiere destination for ALA members to find information and build capacity to serve populations that are served by state library agencies, specialized libraries, library cooperatives and library consultants. ASCLA enhances the effectiveness of library service by advocating for and providing high quality networking, enrichment and educational opportunities for its diverse members, who represent state library agencies, libraries serving special populations, library cooperatives, and library consultants. Please visit our website at

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at