NEH Announces First We the People Bookshelf Awards to 500 Libraries; 15 Classic Books on "Courage" Will Support Community Programs

CANTON, OHIO , (March 16, 2004)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced that it has awarded free copies of 15 classic books from the first We the People Bookshelf to 500 school and local libraries throughout the country. The theme of this year's bookshelf is "courage."

"Libraries serve as beacons of learning in schools and communities," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole at the Stark County District Library in Canton, Ohio, one of the libraries included in today's announcement. "The We the People Bookshelf enables younger readers to examine the meaning of courage from many perspectives. These books inspire readers with stories of characters, real and fictional, who demonstrated personal courage when faced with difficult situations in uncertain times."

Cole announced the new awards as part of the Endowment's We the People initiative, which supports projects that strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. Selected public and school libraries in all 50 states and Guam each will receive a set of the 15 books, posters, bookmarks, and other promotional materials from NEH through the American Library Association, which is working in partnership with NEH.

The We the People Bookshelf on "courage" contains the following books:

  • Grades K-3: The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.
  • Grades 4-6: The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds, The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Grades 7-8: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein.
  • 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, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

In June 2003 at the Vice President's Residence in Washington, D.C., Lynne Cheney and Chairman Cole announced the first We the People Bookshelf, an annual list of books for young readers on a theme related to American history and ideals. Cole also announced plans to offer complete sets of the books to school and public libraries for public programs in their communities.

At the first deadline on Oct. 15, 2003, the Endowment received 625 eligible requests. Because of the interest generated among libraries for this program, NEH will make an additional 500 awards to be announced later this year. The 625 applications to receive the "courage" books were examined by a committee of children's librarians, young adult librarians, and educational programmers. NEH agreed that the 500 top-rated applications should receive the books.

The awards will go to neighborhood and public school libraries, as well as private schools, charter schools, tribal schools, and military schools. Libraries selected to receive the awards will organize programs or events to raise awareness if these classic books and engage young readers.

For example, the Martin Monsen Regional Library in Naknek, Alaska, will display the books and posters prominently in the foyer of the library, bookmarks will be handed out at the circulation desk, children will be rewarded for reading and reporting on all the books in their age group at a special ceremony hosted by the town council, and the mayor will award prizes to adults who read as many as five of the books to their children. And the Hattiesburg High School in Mississippi will use the We the People Bookshelf as the basis for an "All-Mississippi High School Book Club." Many events throughout the state will be staged to promote the reading of these and other books by students of all ages at venues throughout the state.

A complete list of the first 500 school and public libraries to receive the We the People Bookshelf on "courage" is available as a PDF document in the above box.

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