The We the People Bookshelf is a set of classic books for young readers from Kindergarten through high school.
Each year NEH identifies a theme important to the nation's heritage and selects books that embody that theme. This collection of theme-related books is the Bookshelf. In addition to introducing young readers to good literature, the Bookshelf promotes understanding of abstract or general ideas through the power of particular stories.
The theme for the Bookshelf is announced at the beginning of each academic year in September. The first five themes were “Courage,” “Freedom,” “Becoming American,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” and “Created Equal.”
“Created Equal” programs are being conducted in libraries between May 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009.
Applications for the “Picturing America” Bookshelf will be accepted online September 2, 2008, through January 30, 2009. Applicants will be notified by April 3, 2009, whether or not they will receive a Bookshelf. Libraries are expected to conduct their “Picturing America” programs between May 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010.
Applicants to this year’s Picturing America Bookshelf—and librarians who have received a We the People Bookshelf in previous years—should be sure to visit EDSITEment, NEH’s online humanities resource for educators, parents, and students. EDSITEment offers sample lesson plans and other useful information to help strengthen applications and enrich Bookshelf programming.
Titles selected for the We the People Bookshelf might highlight important chapters in American history; or express universal themes that are integral parts of American culture. The books are intended to represent the rich texture of the American heritage, a tradition that has incorporated ideas and texts from around the world.
NEH awards the Bookshelves to libraries across the country for use in programs primarily for young people. U.S. public and school (K-12) libraries are eligible to apply. In return for receiving a Bookshelf, libraries organize programs that highlight the theme and encourage young readers to explore the selected books.
The American Library Association (ALA) collaborates with NEH to deliver this program. ALA staff and libraries help to select the books, and work directly with the nation's libraries to disseminate information and to encourage libraries to take part in the "We the People Bookshelf" grant program.