NEH Awards We the People Bookshelf to 4,000 Libraries

WASHINGTON, (April 6, 2009)

Classic books encourage young readers to explore “Picturing America” theme in 2010 school year

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today that 4,000 public and school libraries will receive a free collection of classic books for the sixth annual We the People Bookshelf. Libraries across the nation each will receive 17 hardcover books for young readers (K-12) related to this year’s theme, “Picturing America.” The Bookshelf includes Spanish translations to accompany three of the selected titles, as well as bonus materials for readers of all ages. Each library will use its set of classic books to develop educational programming and events that engage young readers in the “Picturing America” theme.

“Since 2003, the We the People Bookshelf has introduced young readers at more than 13,000 school and public libraries to great literature and has helped them explore themes central to America’s history,” said NEH Acting Chairman Carole M. Watson. “Through the Bookshelf, the Endowment aims to provide additional high-quality educational resources to our nation’s libraries. This year readers at 4,000 libraries will be able to gain insights into our nation’s story through the ‘Picturing America’ Bookshelf.”

“Picturing America” Bookshelf awards announced today will go to public and school libraries in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Awardees include public libraries in cities, towns, and neighborhoods, as well as libraries at public, private, charter, and tribal schools, home school consortia, and correctional institutions. Educational programs to accompany the Bookshelf will be conducted in libraries between May 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010.

A state-by-state list (including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories) of the public and school libraries selected to receive the We the People Bookshelf on the “Picturing America” theme is available in six Adobe PDF files, located in the box above.

The Bookshelf is awarded through the NEH We the People program, which supports projects that strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. The Bookshelf offers libraries and local communities additional educational resources that may not otherwise be available. Each year the Bookshelf provides an opportunity for readers to examine themes important to America’s history such as freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. This year’s theme, “Picturing America,” explores the premise that a nation’s literature, as well as its visual art, can be a window into its history, aspirations, and ideals. NEH will announce the theme of next year’s Bookshelf in September 2009.

The We the People Bookshelf on “Picturing America” is a literary complement to NEH’s Picturing America (SM) program—a free education resource that provides reproductions of 40 works of great American art to schools and public libraries to help educators teach American history and culture through our nation’s art (

The “Picturing America” Bookshelf features the following books:

  • Kindergarten to Grade 3: Walt Whitman: Words for America by Barbara Kerley; Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull; Cosechando esperanza: La historia de César Chávez by Kathleen Krull (translated by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy); The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Sweet Music in Harlem by Debbie Taylor.
  • Grades 4 to 6: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich; American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne; On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck; Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriette Gillem Robinet; The Captain’s Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Roland Smith.
  • Grades 7 to 8: The Life and Death of Crazy Horse by Russell Freedman; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving; La leyenda de Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (translated by Manuel Broncano); Across America on an Emigrant Train by Jim Murphy; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.
  • Grades 9 to 12: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis; Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge; Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck; Viajes con Charley - en busca de América by John Steinbeck (translated by José Manuel Alvarez Flórez); Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.
  • Bonus: Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out by The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance; 1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough.

In addition, each library receiving the “Picturing America” Bookshelf will receive supplementary programming materials, including bookplates, bookmarks, and posters.

The Bookshelf titles are selected by NEH in consultation with members of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA. The NEH We the People Bookshelf and programming materials are distributed through the ALA, which is working in partnership with NEH. For information about the ALA, please visit

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