Humanities Endowment Launches We the People Bookshelf on "Becoming American"

WASHINGTON, (September 8, 2005)

Chairman Cole announces McCormick Tribune Foundation gift will double size of classic book program for libraries

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced the third We the People Bookshelf, a new set of classic books for young readers (K-12) on the theme of "becoming American." NEH Chairman Bruce Cole made the announcement to a group of local schoolchildren and prospective U.S. citizens prior to a naturalization ceremony at the O'Byrne Gallery, DAR Memorial Continental Hall. The Bookshelf is part of the Endowment's We the People initiative, which supports projects that strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture.

"The We the People Bookshelf reveals the many and varied influences that have shaped our nation's history and culture," said Cole. "These classics also provide another powerful lesson: that there are traits and values shared by all those who, by birth or choice, become American."

Cole also announced that a generous gift from the McCormick Tribune Foundation will double the size of this year's We the People Bookshelf program. Through its partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), the Endowment will offer complete sets of the We the People Bookshelf to thousands of school and public libraries across the country. These libraries will explore the theme of "becoming American" through public programs for young readers in their communities.

The following titles appear on the new We the People Bookshelf:

  • Grades K-3: The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland, Watch the Stars Come Out by Riki Levinson, and Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say.
  • Grades 4-6: Immigrant Kids by Russell Freedman, The People Could Fly: The Picture Book by Virginia Hamilton, Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving, and In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord.
  • Grades 7-8: Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith, The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and Dragonwings by Laurence Yep.
  • Grades 9-12: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin edited by Louis P. Masur, Barrio Boy by Ernesto Galarza, and Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie by Ole Edvart Rolvaag.

During today's event, Cole talked about the importance of reading classic 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.

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