Above: Students perform an original spoken word piece, "Momma Said," at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in Mays Landing, New Jersey.
The American Library Association’s Great Stories Club (ALA GSC) is a literature-based library outreach program that gives underserved youth the opportunity to read, reflect, and share ideas on topics that resonate with them. Since 2006, ALA has made 1,400 Great Stories Club grants to libraries, reaching more than 42,000 young adults in 49 states and 2 U.S. territories.
The project has received funding from Oprah’s Angel Network, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Acton Family Giving. With this support, ALA has worked with librarians and literature scholars to develop 13 reading and discussion series on themes like empathy and heroism, and to distribute grants to libraries to host those series in collaboration with community partners. Materials developed for the Great Stories Club are freely available for use by libraries, educators, and others.
“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
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. The GSC Programming Guide for Libraries provides complete information on the program model and tips for successful implementation.
Resources developed for Great Stories Club grantees are free and available for use by all libraries. Visit the Resources page access ready-to-implement programming resources including reading lists, discussion questions, programming tips and promotional materials.
To stay informed about upcoming Great Stories Club grants, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian e-newsletter.
ALA's Great Stories Club has been made possible by the generous support of the following organizations.