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NEH Launches We the People Reading List on "Courage"

Lynne Cheney and NEH Chairman Bruce Cole announce new book list for young readers; new NEH program will provide books to libraries that offer public programs

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 3, 2003 - The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today issued a new list of recommended books for young readers (K-12) on the theme of "courage" as part of the Endowment's We the People initiative. Lynne Cheney and NEH Chairman Bruce Cole announced the first "We the People Bookshelf" to a group of local schoolchildren at the Vice President's Residence.

"Acts of courage have shaped our nation throughout its history," said Cheney, who served as NEH chairman from 1986-93. "By reading these books, young readers can gain greater understanding of how people from all walks of life - facing challenges large and small - can find strength to do what is right."

Cole also announced that this fall the Endowment plans to offer complete sets of the 15 "We the People Bookshelf" books to more than 500 libraries across the country. These libraries will use the selections in programs for young readers in their communities.

"Stories from history and literature can teach us a great deal," said Cole. "Young readers will find inspiration in these stories about characters, real and fictional, who demonstrated personal courage when faced with difficult situations in uncertain times."

With the Endowment's plans to issue a short list of books each year on themes related to American ideas and ideals, this year's "We the People Bookshelf" includes 15 books that examine the theme of courage. A blue-ribbon panel of experts recommended these books from a new edition of Summertime Favorites, an NEH book list also issued today with 300 titles recommended for young readers and divided into four educational reading levels.

The following titles appear on the 2003 "We the People Bookshelf":

Grades K - 3

  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
  • Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

Grades 4 - 6

  • The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Grades 7 - 8

  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Grades 9 - 12

  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A fact sheet on the "We the People Bookshelf" is also available.

During today's event, Cheney and Cole talked about the importance of reading good books and learning more about our history with young public school students who participate in "Everybody Wins! DC," a local program that pairs public elementary school students with adult reading mentors. Cheney also discussed with the students stories from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, one of the titles on the new list.

A complete list of books included in Summertime Favorites and additional information about NEH and its We the People initiative can be found on the Internet at www.neh.gov and www.WethePeople.gov. The We the People initiative supports projects that strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. President Bush, who announced the launch of the initiative last September, has requested $100 million in additional funding for NEH over the next three years to support the initiative, beginning with $25 million included in the President's budget request for FY 2004.

The National Endowment for the Humanities gratefully acknowledges support for its "We the People Bookshelf" provided by the National Trust for the Humanities and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. NEH looks forward to working with the American Library Association to disseminate information and to encourage libraries to take part in the "We the People Bookshelf" grant program.

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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: www.neh.gov.

Media Contacts: Office of Communications at (202) 606-8446 or info@neh.gov