Great Stories Club “Deeper Than Our Skins” and “Finding Your Voice” Series Guidelines

Great Stories Club

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Wednesday, March 29, 2023, 11:59 p.m. CST
Date posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 45.164

Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or publicprograms@ala.org.

Table of Contents

  1. Program Description
  2. Key Theme and Supporting Works
  3. Award Information
  4. Benefits for Grant Recipients 
  5. Requirements for Grantees
  6. Eligibility 
  7. Application and Submission Information
  8. Application Review
  9. Review and Selection Process
  10. Award Administration Information
  11. Point of Contact

I. Program Description

The ALA Great Stories Club is a thematic reading and discussion program that engages teens who are facing difficult challenges through literature-based library outreach programs. The “Deeper Than Our Skins” and “Finding Your Voice” series will feature books that explore questions of race, equity, identity, and history. Implementation of both series is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Participating libraries will work with small groups of approximately 10 teens; provide up to four theme-related books for each participant to keep as their own; and convene opportunities for exploration and discussion of relevant humanities content among peers. Book discussions will be led by an experienced programming librarian, often in cooperation with staff from a partner organization or department, such as teachers and counselors.

Because the Great Stories Club seeks to engage libraries in different areas of the country, serving high-need and diverse groups of teen readers, ALA invites interested librarians to get in touch if there is a specific need for flexibility with the program model or requirements.

The goals of the Great Stories Club and these series are to:

  • provide specialized library outreach programming to underserved youth, particularly those who are engaged with alternative education programs, the juvenile justice system, residential treatment programs, and other social service organizations in their community;
  • connect participating youth with powerful works of young adult literature that will facilitate personal exploration of and group discussions about issues of racial and ethnic identity, racism and equity;
  • inspire teens to consider "big questions" about the world around them and their place in it, affecting how they view themselves as thinkers, creators, and contributors; and
  • facilitate reflection and discussion of future opportunities for positive change that will help all people recognize one another's humanity and value, inspired by the readings and activities.

The project also seeks to make a positive impact at the institutional and community level by:

  • prioritizing specialized, literature-based library programming for underserved groups;
  • establishing new partnerships between public libraries and community and cultural organizations;
  • providing a curated collection of literary programming resources.

For each themed series described in Section II below, ALA will award up to 50 Great Stories Club grants to eligible institutions around the country. Up to 50 libraries will be selected to receive a "Deeper Than Our Skins" grant, and up to 50 libraries will be selected to receive a "Finding Your Voice" grant. Up to 100 grants on the themes below will be awarded to eligible institutions around the country to support program implementation.

Participating sites will host at least one reading and discussion event for each of the selected titles on the reading list. 

All Great Stories Club programs hosted as part of each series must take place between August 1, 2023—May 31, 2024.

II. Key Theme and Supporting Works

Applications will be accepted for the two Great Stories Club themes described below. Libraries may apply to host only one series during the 10-month project term, August 1, 2023—May 31, 2024.

"Deeper Than Our Skins: The Present is a Conversation with the Past"

Introduction by Maria Sachiko Cecire, Director of Experimental Humanities and Assistant Professor of Literature at Bard College

"The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." As a candidate for president in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama used these words to argue that we can only ever truly understand — and begin to overcome — the bitterness of modern race relations in the light of brave and accurate accounting of history. Obama's line is a slightly altered version of a quote from Southern author William Faulkner; in other words, he turned to literature as a source of wisdom about the difficult subject of race in America and built upon what he found there to imagine new pathways towards justice, healing, and unity.

The "Deeper Than Our Skins" theme is grounded in literature that can help us look beneath the surface of racism in America to reveal how the past is alive in the present. This theme uses powerful stories of oppression, resistance, suffering, and triumph to identify the roots of racialized experience in the United States, and to inspire discussions around how to construct more equitable futures for the people in our nation and world.

Through fiction, nonfiction, comics, poetry, short stories, and art, these works uncover the often-hidden histories of America's Native, enslaved, and immigrant communities. They offer points of connection that reach across time and cultures to affirm our shared humanity, while recognizing the importance of remembering and recounting unique origins and narratives. From Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, written as a letter to his teenage son in the age of Black Lives Matter; to the intertwining of family secrets and Puerto Rican heritage in Sonia Manzano's novel about the 1969 youth-led uprising in Spanish Harlem; to the vibrant array of experiences, nations, and identities represented in the multimedia collection Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, the works in "Deeper Than Our Skins" empower young people to use knowledge of the past to explore their own intersectional identities, empathize with others, and identify how they can be agents of racial healing and change in the world.

Reading list

Applicant libraries may select up to four books from the reading list below.

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
  • Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew
  • Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott
  • Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez

 

"Finding Your Voice: Speaking Truth to Power"

Introduction by Susana M. Morris, Associate Professor of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology

The old adage goes, "children should be seen and not heard." That conventional wisdom implies that speaking up and out is the exclusive realm of adults. It also suggests that young people don't have important things to say — that they should stay out of adult conversation.

The truth is that young people have been vital to making change by speaking and showing up in the face of adversity. Take Joan of Arc, for example. In 1429, while just 18 years old, she led a French army to the besieged city of Orléans in a victory over the English. But we don't have to go back to 15th-century France to find young heroes. On November 14, 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to integrate a white Southern elementary school. Her mother and U.S. marshals had to escort young Ruby to class because of violent mobs in her hometown of New Orleans. Bridges was born the same year that Brown v. Board of Education made "separate but equal" public spaces illegal, and her bravery was a milestone in the Civil Rights movement.

There are countless examples of young people taking a stand against injustice. "Finding Your Voice" includes texts that highlight the necessity and power of young people speaking up, despite challenges, social pressure, and even the threat of bigger dangers. Whether it is finding righteous anger as a superpower in Mark Oshiro's Anger is a Gift or speaking up through poetry and art as in Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X, "Finding Your Voice" features young people taking a stand against racism and other injustices in order to make the world a better place.

Reading list

Applicant libraries may select up to four books from the reading list below.

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi
  • Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

III. Award Information

The ALA Public Programs Office will make up to 50 Great Stories Club grants for each of the two themes above: "Deeper Than Our Skins" and "Finding Your Voice." Programming requirements appear below under Requirements for Grantees.

IV. Benefits for Grant Recipients

Recipients of a "Deeper Than Our Skins" grant will receive the following:

  • 11 paperback copies each (10 to gift to participants; 1 for discussion leader/library collection) of up to four books on the reading list: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates; The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano; Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale; The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew; Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott; and Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.by Luis J. Rodriguez.
  • A programming grant of $500 for programmatic expenses (e.g., additional books, audiobooks, journals, art supplies, refreshments).
  • Virtual orientation training workshop for library project directors, July 2023 (exact dates TBD). Training will include a thorough review of the humanities content of the series led by national project scholar Maria Sachiko Cecire, and dialogue facilitation training and best practices from programming librarians.
  • Additional training through periodic project webinars, a program planning guide, and other online support materials.
  • Online access to professionally designed, customizable, and downloadable resources for use with Great Stories Club program participants. Resources will include bookmarks, related reading brochures, discussion group sign-up sheets, certificates of completion, and promotional posters and flyers.
  • Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, including participation in an online discussion list for librarians and partner organization staff.

Recipients of a "Finding Your Voice" grant will receive the following:

  • 11 paperback copies each (10 to gift to participants; 1 for discussion leader/library collection) of up to four books on the reading list: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo; I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina; Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero; Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; American Street by Ibi Zoboi; Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro.
  • A programming grant of $500 for programmatic expenses (e.g., additional books, audiobooks, journals, art supplies, refreshments).
  • Virtual orientation training workshop for library project directors, July 2023 (exact dates TBD). Training will include a thorough review of the humanities content of the series led by national project scholar, Susana M. Morris, and dialogue facilitation training and best practices from programming librarians.
  • Additional training through periodic project webinars, a program planning guide, and other online support materials.
  • Online access to professionally designed, customizable, and downloadable resources for use with Great Stories Club program participants. Resources will include bookmarks, related reading brochures, discussion group sign-up sheets, certificates of completion, and promotional posters and flyers.
  • Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, including participation in an online discussion list for librarians and partner organization staff.

V. Requirements for Grantees

  • Each library must implement the humanities-based book discussion programs and related sessions described in their application (in cooperation with their program partner, if applicable).
  • Each library must hold a minimum of one discussion program for each book they select, with participation by at least 8-10 young adults.
  • The library project director must attend the virtual orientation workshop (July 2023, for "Deeper Than Our Skins" grantees; July 2023, for "Finding Your Voice" grantees).
  • Grantees must confirm their programming schedules with ALA by August 1, 2023.
  • Up to one copy of each book may be retained for use by the book discussion leader and one copy may remain in the library collection.
  • The libraries must supply the remaining books to participating teens to keep. The books will not revert to the library collection, but be a gift to the participants. Please contact ALA if there is an institutional barrier to this requirement.
  • The library must complete an online final report form by the June 28, 2024, deadline, or within 30 days of their last program, whichever comes first. Libraries will also be asked to participate in project evaluation activities, which will be led by PIE Org, ALA's third-party evaluator.

VI. Eligibility

Applications will be accepted from all types of libraries (public, school, academic, special, etc.) in the United States and its territories that meet one of the following criteria:

  • The applicant library is located within an organization that reaches underserved, under-resourced, and/or at-risk teens (e.g., alternative high school, juvenile detention facility, tribal library), OR;
  • The applicant library is working with a partner organization that reaches underserved, under-resourced, and/or at-risk teens. Possible partner organizations include but are not limited to juvenile justice facilities, drug/alcohol rehabilitation centers, nonprofits serving teen parents, alternative high schools, agencies serving teenaged foster children, and shelters serving young adults and families experiencing homelessness. Please contact publicprograms@ala.org if you have a question about partner eligibility or would like feedback on a prospective partner organization's fit for the project.

NOTE: Applications from public libraries, high school libraries, community college libraries, or others that are submitted without an appropriate partner organization MUST INCLUDE a plan to recruit a high-need teen population to be considered eligible. Please contact publicprograms@ala.org prior to applying if you feel that your circumstances merit special consideration or discussion.

Individuals and organizations other than libraries are not eligible to apply. Late, incomplete, or ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

VII. Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for the Great Stories Club themes "Deeper Than Our Skins" and "Finding Your Voice" from January 18 — March 15, 2023. Applicants may only apply to host one themed series and must make their selection within the online application. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To submit a proposal, go to the online application form and complete the following steps. If this is your first time submitting an application through our grants management system, you may want to first review our How to Apply webpage. You may also wish to consult the PDF preview of the application questions to help you prepare, but please note that the application must be submitted via the online form. 

If you encounter problems interacting with our online grants management platform due to difficulties with assistive technologies, please contact publicprograms@ala.org or call 312.280.5045. Please also include information about the nature of your accessibility barrier so we can best provide support.

To apply for the Great Stories Club: “Deeper Than Our Skins” or “Finding Your Voice” grant, you must complete the following steps:

  • CREATE/ACCESS YOUR ACCOUNT
  • ENTER PROJECT NAME
  • COMPLETE PROJECT DIRECTOR INFORMATION
  • COMPLETE LIBRARY INFORMATION
  • COMPLETE PARTNER ORGANIZATION/TEEN RECRUITMENT INFORMATION
  • GRANT THEMES AND BOOK SELECTION
  • WRITE THE PROPOSAL NARRATIVE
  • COMPLETE THE PROJECT BUDGET
  • AFFIRM PROGRAM SCHEDULE
  • UPLOAD SUPPORTING MATERIALS
  • SIGN APPLICATION BY AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL
  • REVIEW AND EDIT YOUR APPLICATION
  • SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION

Create/Access Your Account

Applications will be completed via ALA Apply, the ALA PPO grants management platform.

Create a New Account (New Users)

  1. Visit the Log on page.
    • It’s recommended that you bookmark this page in your internet browser for ease of access.
  2. Click “Create New Account”.
  3. Enter your personal information then click “Next”.
    • The email address you enter will act as your username when logging on to the site in the future.
    • Fields with an asterisk next to them are required fields, and you must complete them before moving forward.
    • Note you can always click on the “Cancel Account Creation” button to abandon the registration process.
  4. Create a password for your account and click “Create Account”.
  5. Upon creating an account, you will be taken to the Email Confirmation page, so you can confirm that you are receiving emails from the system.
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions and click “Continue” to finish the registration process.
  7. Now you have an account in this system; and remember, this is an account that you will use for both present and future applications.

If at any time after creating an account, you can’t remember your password, you may click on the “Forgot Your Password?” link on the Logon page, enter your email address, and you will be sent a link to reset your password.

Ensure you receive messages regarding your application! Emails regarding your application status will come from administrator@grantinterface.com. Save this email address as a contact to ensure messages are not marked as spam.

Once signed in, go to Active Requests and click “Apply” to bring up a list of available grant opportunities. Select NEH Great Stories Club to begin your application for this opportunity.

Enter Project Name

To begin your application, enter NEH GSC into the “Project Name” field. Please do not enter an original project name.

Complete Project Director Information

To complete this section, provide all the information that is requested about the Project Director.

Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the entire proposed project. They will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

In this section you will also provide information about the applying library including type and population served

Complete Partner Organization / Teen Recruitment Information

If you answered Yes to the previous question, asking if you will be working with a partner organization, you will be taken to this section to enter information about that partner organization.

Grant themes and book selection

In this section you will indicate which theme you are applying for, and which three or four books you would like to use in your programming.

If ALA does not receive 50 eligible proposals for this round of grantmaking, interested applicants may be considered to receive a second grant to present an additional themed series during the 10-month grant term. If your library would like to be considered for a second grant should the opportunity arise, please indicate that at the bottom of this page.

Proposal Narrative

Before you compose the narrative section of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive. Please answer each narrative section, describing your library's plans for hosting a Great Stories Club reading and discussion series. The proposal narrative consists of seven sections (described immediately below). Please note that each section of the narrative may not exceed 1000 character. The narrative sections are as follows:

  1. Please tell us why you are interested in applying for the Great Stories Club grant. Include why you believe the theme you’ve selected (“Deeper Than Our Skins” or “Finding Your Voice”) will be meaningful to the individuals who participate in your programs, and what you hope to achieve for your library and your participants during the grant term. What will a successful series look like to you?
  2. If you are partnering with another organization, what is the nature of the partnership? Tell us about the work this organization does, why you have chosen to work with them, the history of the partnership, and anything else that will convey how you will work together on the program. If you will work with more than one community partner, please describe.
    If your library does not plan to work with a community partner to recruit teen participants for your Great Stories Club series, please clearly explain why teen readers in your general service area would benefit from engagement with this project and how you will gain their involvement with your program series. For example, ALA will consider proposals from school libraries that serve alternative classrooms, libraries that are part of a juvenile justice facility or department of corrections, tribal libraries, and public libraries in high-poverty communities.
  3. Describe the population from which your Great Stories Club discussion group will be drawn. Include as much information as possible about the young adults who will participate in reading and discussion events, and describe how the group currently relates to reading (e.g., reading levels, interest in reading, access to similar programs). If your program will target more transient populations (e.g., within a sentencing facility), explain how you will address this in a way that meets the GSC programming requirements.
  4. How will you get and maintain participant engagement in your reading and discussion group? Tell us how you will invite or require teens to participate, how information about the program will be distributed, whether incentives like class credit will be used, and if there will be prerequisites such as behavioral or academic good standing. If you anticipate any challenges in recruiting or maintaining participants, please describe them along with your plans to address them.
  5. Please clearly describe your plan to implement the Great Stories Club. Important information to provide includes how books will be distributed, how often discussion groups will convene (e.g., one program per title or multiple chapter-specific programs), how discussion group meetings will be structured (length of program, discussion format, additional activities), who will facilitate the group meetings and their experience with similar programs, where programs will take place and if transportation is required, and anything else that will help reviewers understand your proposed series. As a reminder, grantees will be invited to refine these plans after attending the virtual orientation workshop.
  6. Describe how you will highlight and explore the ideas in this series. Beyond using the book-specific discussion points that will be provided by ALA, how will you encourage participants to think about the issues presented in the books, including concepts such as identity, cultural heritage, empathy, self-expression, institutional change, and justice? If activities, projects, assignments, field trips, or other materials (e.g., books, films, music) will be part of your programming, please describe them. 
  7. How will you evaluate the community specific goals of your GSC series, and sustain your work serving at-risk youth? Grantees will be required to submit a final report to ALA, describing how programs went, recording attendance information, and offering other details about activity during the grant term. Additional support for program evaluation measurement will be offered during the virtual orientation workshop. Below, please tell us how you will evaluate your institution’s work on the project overall, maintain key relationships with community partners in the future, and offer referral opportunities for underserved populations after the project’s conclusion (and/or after release, transfer, graduation).

Project Budget

Include details about how you will spend your programming grant to support the activities outlined in your proposal. This Great Stories Club cash grant is intended to support your library's work to build programming around each selected title. Additional eligible expenses include other speaker/presenter fees, collection materials, promotional expenses, and other program support costs (e.g., art supplies, refreshments). The total amount of your proposed budget should add up to $500.

Program Schedule

Use this page to affirm that you will provide ALA with a completed schedule of all programs your library will offer during the grant term (August 2023 – May 2024). Programming schedules must be submitted online following grant notification and will be due by August 1, 2023.

Complete the checkbox to move on.

Upload your project director's résumé

Use the upload button to attach this file, and if applicable, the résumé of the lead contact person at your partner organization as well.

Upload letters of commitment (optional)

If you have letters of commitment from your library administration, board, and/or community partner that you would like to share, you may attach them here. This upload is strictly optional.

Certify Authorization to Submit Application

An application to host a Great Stories Club series is an application for an award from the ALA. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.

Review and submit

Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it by selecting the “Submit” button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on March 15, 2023. Applications submitted after that time will be ineligible.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review. You will receive an email confirming submission of your application.

Ensure you receive messages regarding your application! Emails regarding your application status will come from administrator@grantinterface.com. Please save this email address as a contact to prevent notification emails from being marked as spam.

VIII. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Target audience appropriateness and need
  • Evidence of a workable and appropriate partnership (if applicable)
  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including all sections of the proposal narrative? Are plans and ideas for programs described clearly?
  • Quality and completeness of program description (including information about the target audience, plans to recruit participants, etc.)
  • The overall vision for the program series, including creative plans to engage participants with the theme, books, and related humanities content. How does this project relate to your community and your program participants?

Another factor that may influence the final selection of libraries is the location of the sites. The selection team would like programs to take place in all regions of the country.

Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process, and requirements to the ALA Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or publicprograms@ala.org.

IX. Review and Selection Process

Each application will be peer reviewed by programming librarians and ALA project staff. Applicants will be notified of their award status by May 17, 2023.

X. Award Administration Information

  • Application deadline: March 15, 2023
  • Grant notification: By May 17, 2023
  • Book collections ship: June 2023
  • "Deeper Than Our Skins" theme facilitation workshop: July 13, 2023 at 12-2 PM Central Time
  • "Finding Your Voice" virtual orientation workshop: July 25, 2023 at 12-2 PM Central Time
  • Evaluation and Reporting Webinar for grantees: July 20, 2023 at 1-2 PM Central Time
  • Online pre-program report (PDF preview) due via ALA Apply: August 1, 2023
  • Programming Term: August 1, 2023 – May 31, 2024
  • Online final report (PDF preview) due via ALA Apply: June 28, 2024, or within 30 days of final program

XI. Point of Contact

If you have questions about the program, contact:
Public Programs Office
American Library Association
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045
publicprograms@ala.org