Great Stories Club

Great Stories Club: Reading and Discussion for At-Risk Youth

Application for The Art of Change: Creation, Growth and Transformation

RECEIPT DEADLINE: April 15, 2016

Date posted: February 15, 2016


Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

I. Program Description

The Great Stories Club (GSC) is a three-part, thematic reading and discussion program series developed to engage at-risk teens and other underserved audiences through literature-based library outreach programs. Participating libraries work with small groups of 6-10 teens, provide three theme-related paperback books for each participant to keep as their own, and convene opportunities for exploration and discussion of relevant humanities content among peers. Discussions are led by an experienced programming librarian, often in cooperation with staff from a partner organization or department, such as teachers and counselors.

The goals of the Great Stories Club are to:

  • engage youth facing difficult circumstances with powerful works of young adult literature;
  • facilitate personal exploration of universal humanities themes;
  • offer emotional benefits by reducing feelings of depression and isolation, and encouraging empathy through peer-based discussion groups;
  • encourage reading among non-readers, often providing the first-ever book that the at-risk participants have personally owned and read cover to cover;
  • facilitate reflection and discussion of past actions and future opportunities for positive change inspired by the titles;
  • establish important connections between at-risk youth, their public library, and their local librarian, as well as local nonprofits (e.g., museums, universities, cultural centers, churches, adult education centers, community centers) that have proven to be important to success after incarceration, treatment, graduation, or during other transitions;
  • contribute to improved literacy and changed, positive attitudes toward reading; and
  • inspire avoidance of future negative behaviors and outcomes in the lives of at-risk youth.

The GSC program also seeks to make a positive impact at the institutional and community level by:

  • prioritizing specialized, literature-based library programming for underserved groups;
  • establishing new partnerships between public libraries and community and cultural organizations;
  • increasing library use during and after the project term; and
  • providing a curated collection of literary programming resources for future use.

Up to 75 “Change ” grants will be awarded to eligible institutions around the country to support program series that explore key humanities themes presented in the “Change ” collection. Participating sites will host at least one reading and discussion event for each of the three titles on the “Change ” reading list.

All GSC “Change ” programs must take place between August and December 2016.

II. Key Theme and Supporting Works

The current theme of the Great Stories Club is “The Art of Change: Creation, Growth and Transformation,” developed by Laura Rogers, Director, Writing Center and Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, NY.  

Change may be chosen or involuntary, accepted or resisted, and is the foundational issue of both our temporal human existence and literature. The three books chosen for this series are memoirs and semi-autobiographical works in which the young adult narrators make decisions about how to respond to the great personal, social, and cultural forces they encounter. Each protagonist moves forward towards positive change by, among other factors, their involvement in the creative arts. Each books raises important questions about we how respond to the very essence of human existence. How do we, as individuals and societies, respond to change? How can we use change as a transformative instead of a destructive force? What are the conditions that help us to use change to grow and thrive? How can we use the arts to create conditions for positive change?

Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante

MK Asante’s memoir chronicles the life of a young black man growing up on the streets of Philadelphia.  Asante’s memoir is firmly grounded in the details of life on the streets and pressing issues of poverty, addiction and family mental illness. As Malo’s life falls apart around him—his brother goes to prison, his father leaves the family, a friend is killed, and his mother retreats further and further into mental illness-Malo must make decisions about how to change in response to these devastating life transformations. Ultimately, Malo resists the lure of life on the streets through the encouragement of family members and a supportive school environment. There, an understanding teacher encourages Malo, who has shown his love for and facility with language throughout the text, to write. Malo, through his engagement with writing and literature and the support of family and teachers, is able to find a way out of the street life he seemed trapped in.   Buck: A Memoir, engages the reader with its use of vernacular, relatable language, short chapters, and its inclusion of contemporary hip hop lyrics.  Asante raises key questions such as how do we enact positive change in the face of such pressures as personal loss, peer pressure and environmental limitations? What conditions need to be present in order to support that change?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie’s alter ego Junior’s life changes in response to the many pressures of growing up on a reservation outside of Spokane, WA. Junior, a gifted cartoonist and artist, while growing up in a very different setting than Asante, faces similar issues of loss, poverty and racism.  Alexie’s Junior, like Malo, makes a life-changing decision to leave his home community; Junior decides to take his life into his own hands and attend a school in which he is the only Indian from the reservation. While Junior is faced with devastating personal loss, physical limitations, racism and poverty, his determination to change his life, his friends and family and gift for drawing allow Junior to move his life in a positive direction. The book incorporates Junior’s drawings (by graphic novelist Ellen Fornay) that illustrate Junior’s perception of the world and offer an opportunity to incorporate discussion of how visual elements complement and work with a text. Alexie’s semi-autobiographical memoir raises questions of how one can change by moving out into the world and still maintain a relationship with the past and one’s home community. Like Malo, Junior uses his gift for creative expression to help him assimilate and work through the many changes he is both confronted with and decides to make. This text, with its incorporation of visual elements, provides a strong transition to Marjane Satrapi’s appealing graphic novel, Persepolis.

The Complete Persepolis  by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel is set in Iran during the turbulent Islamic revolution and war between Iran and Iraq. Although Satrapi’s graphic novel takes place in a very different setting than Asante and Alexi’s books, Satrapi’s young narrator also faces many changes and losses which challenge her to grow up very quickly.  Satrapi was an outspoken and rebellious child and adolescent; her parents, who were involved in leftist and communist politics, feared for her safety, and so sent her to boarding school in Vienna. The cultural, political and social changes Satrapi must navigate echo the issues confronted by Malo and Junior as she faces personal loss, estrangement from her home community and vast differences between her public and private life. Similar to the restrictions of racism and poverty Malo and Junior experience,  Satrapi encounters many gender- based restrictions growing up in the repressive post-revolution Iran.  The engaging black and white illustrations emphasize themes of personal, political and social change. How does one change in order to grow up in an environment of war and repression? How does family support and a strong sense of family history help one successfully change and grow? How can art help us make sense of devastating change happening out of our control? The simply but beautifully illustrated Persepolis provides an unforgettable story of personal growth in the midst of political upheaval.

Additional resources related to the themes are available on this website. ALA will continue to add resources to support humanities-based programming over the coming months.

III. Award Information

The ALA Public Programs Office will make up to seventy-five (75 ) Great Stories Club “Change ” awards. Programming requirements appear below under Requirements for Grantees.

IV. Benefits for Grant Recipients

Recipients of a Great Stories Club “Change ” grant will receive the following:

  • 11 paperback copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (10 to gift to participants; 1 for discussion leader/library collection)
  • 11 paperback copies of The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • 11 paperback copies of Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante
  • Travel and accommodation expenses paid for attendance at the project orientation workshop for the library project directors, on June 24, 2016 in Orlando, FL .
  • Training through periodic project webinars, program planning guide, and other online support materials.
  • Online access to professionally designed, customizable, and downloadable resources for use with GSC program participants. Resources will include bookmarks, related reading brochures, discussion group sign-up sheets, certificates of completion, and promotional posters and flyers.
  • Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, including participation in an online discussion list for participating libraries and partner organizations.

V. Requirements for Grantee

  • Each library must implement the humanities based book discussion programs described in their application (in cooperation with their program partner, if applicable).
  • Each library must hold a minimum of three book discussion programs with participation by 6–10 young adults.
  • Up to one copy of each book may be retained for use by the book discussion leader and one copy may remain in the library collection.
  • The libraries must supply the remaining books to participating teens to keep. The books will not revert to the library collection, but be a gift to the participants.
  • The library must complete an online final program report form by the January 31 , 2016 deadline.

VI. Eligibility

Applications will be accepted from all types of libraries (public, school, academic and special) in the United States and its territories that meet one of the following criteria:

  • The applicant library must be located within an organization that serves troubled or at-risk teens (e.g., an alternative high school, juvenile detention facility, residential treatment program), OR;
  • The applicant library must work with a partner organization that serves troubled teens. Possible partner organizations include but are not limited to juvenile justice facilities, drug rehabilitation centers, nonprofits serving teen parents, alternative high schools, agencies serving teenaged foster children, and shelters serving homeless and runaway youth. Please contact if you have a question about partner eligibility.

Individuals and organizations other than libraries are not eligible to apply. Federal entities are also ineligible to apply. Applications from organizations whose projects are so closely intertwined with a federal entity that the project takes on characteristics of the federal entity’s own authorized activities may also be deemed ineligible. This does not preclude applicants from using grant funds from, or sites and materials controlled by, other federal entities in their projects.

Late, incomplete, or ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

VII. Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for Great Stories Club “Change ” grants between February 15 and April 15, 2016 . Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to To apply, you must complete the following steps:

  • REGISTER(if you have not previously registered when applying for a different project)
  • LOG IN (if you have already registered when applying for a different project)
    Provide text to complete each section for the proposal narrative.
    Using the table structure provided, include details about each program, event, or other activity described in your proposal.
    Include project director resume, partner organization contact’s resume, and letter of commitment from the partner organization (if applicable). You may also include sample program or promotional materials from past reading and discussion programs, youth outreach efforts, or other related programs.

1. Register

Before you access the application, you must register to create an application account.


2. Log In

If you have already registered when applying for another ALA Public Programs Office grant project, you may log in using your e-mail address and password.

3. Complete Project Director Information

Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the entire proposed Great Stories Club “Change ” series. He or she will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

To complete Step 3, provide all the information that is requested on the Project Director Information screen. You must provide a shipping address in order to receive book collections and related materials. You must then save the information.

After clicking the “SAVE” button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the April 15, 2016 submission deadline.

4. Complete Partner Organization Information (if applicable)

Per the grant guidelines, public libraries, academic libraries, and all other library applicants not located within an organization that serves an at-risk population must recruit a partner organization.

Please answer Yes or No to the following question: "My library is located within an organization that serves an at-risk population."

Those who answer "No" will see fields in which to provide information about the required partner organization. A letter of support from the partner organization must be included in this section as well.

5. Write the Proposal Narrative

Before you compose the narrative section of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive.

Please answer each narrative section, describing your plans for hosting a Great Stories Club “Change ” reading and discussion program series at your organization. The proposal narrative consists of six to seven sections (described immediately below). Please note that each section of the narrative may not exceed 500 words.

The narrative sections are as follows.

  • Please tell us why you are interested in applying for a GSC grant. Include why you believe the current theme (“The Art of Change: Creation, Growth and Transformation ”) will be meaningful to the individuals who participate in your programs, and what you hope to achieve for your library and your participants during the grant term. What will a successful GSC series look like to you?
  • If you are partnering with another organization, what is the nature of the partnership? Tell us about the work that this organization does, why you have chosen to work with them, the history of the partnership, and anything else that will convey how you will work together on the GSC program. Please enter “N/A” if you are not required to work with a partner organization.
  • Describe the population from which your Great Stories Club discussion group will be drawn. Include information about the individuals who will participate in reading and discussion events (e.g., age, gender, reason for at-risk status, other relevant background), and describe how the group currently relates to reading (e.g., reading levels, interest in reading, access to similar programs). If your program will target more transient populations (e.g., within a sentencing facility), explain how you will address this in a way that meets the GSC programming requirements.
  • How will participation in your reading and discussion group be achieved? Tell us how you will invite or require individuals to participate, how information about the program will be distributed, whether incentives like class credit will be used, and if there will be prerequisites such as behavioral or academic good standing. If you anticipate any challenges in recruiting participants, please describe them along with your plans to address them. Finally, please tell us of any other outreach or promotion that will be conducted in your community about the GSC (e.g., press releases, news articles).
  • Please clearly describe your plan to implement the Great Stories Club. Important information to provide includes how books will be distributed, how often discussion groups will meet (e.g., one program per title, or multiple chapter-specific programs), how discussion group meetings will be structured (length of program, lead presenters or moderators, discussion format, additional activities), where programs will take place and if transportation is required, and anything else that will help reviewers understand your proposed series.
  • Describe how you will highlight and explore the humanities content of the “Change ” series. Beyond using book-specific discussion points provided by ALA, how will you encourage participants to think about how we can use change as a transformative instead of a destructive force ? How will you engage participants in personal reflection and meaningful discussion about past actions and future opportunities for change inspired by the titles? If activities, projects, assignments, field trips, or other materials (e.g., books, films, music) will be part of your programming, please describe them.
  • How will you evaluate your GSC series? Grantees will be required to submit a final report to ALA, describing how their programs went, recording attendance information, and offering other details about activity during the grant term. Please tell us how you will keep track of this basic information as well as evaluate your institution’s work on the project.

6. Complete the Required Programs Schedule

Using the table generator provided in the online application, provide a schedule of the programs, events, and other activities described in your proposal. As applicable, please indicate the date, location, event type/format, brief description, and anticipated attendance for each program that will be hosted during your series.

7. Upload Supporting Materials


Upload a resume for the project director, local partner contact person, and any other key speakers/presenters described in the proposal narrative.

Letters of Commitment and Support

Upload letter(s) of commitment from your partner organization. Other optional letters of support may be included here as well.

Sample Publicity Materials (OPTIONAL)

Upload samples of previous or current reading and discussion programs, youth outreach initiatives, or other related efforts.

8. Certify Authorization to Submit Application

An application to host a Great Stories Club “Change ” series is an application for an award from the ALA, using funding provided by the NEH, an agency of the federal government. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.

9. Review and Edit Your Application

The Review and Edit page summarizes all the information that you have entered, including your Project Director Information and your Proposal Narrative. From this page you can:

  • review and edit each section;
  • save the entire application and log out of the system; or
  • move ahead to certify and submit your application.

10. Submit Your Application

Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it at any time by selecting the “Submit Application” button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CST on April 15, 2016. Applications submitted after that time will be considered ineligible.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review.

You will receive an e-mail confirming submission of your application. At the confirmation page you will be able to print out a copy of your application. Print and keep this copy for your records.

VIII. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

    • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including all sections of the proposal narrative and the programming schedule? Are plans and ideas for programs described clearly?
    • Evidence of a workable and appropriate partnership (if applicable)
    • Target audience appropriateness and need
    • Quality and completeness of program description (including proposed dates, information about the target audience, plans to recruit participants, etc.)
    • The overall vision for the program series, including creative plans to engage participants with the theme, books, and related humanities content. How does this project relate to your community and your program participants?

Another factor that may influence the final selection of libraries is the location of the sites. The selection team would like programs to take place in all regions of the country.

Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process, and requirements to the ALA Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

IX. Review and Selection Process

Each application will be assessed by a panel of librarians, Great Stories Club project advisors, and ALA project staff. All applicants will be notified of their award status on April 25, 2016.

X. Award Administration Information



Application deadline:

April 15, 2016

Grant notifica tion:

April 25, 2016

Program Introduction webinar (required for grantees): June 1, 2016, 2:00pm Central

Book collections, promotional materials ship:

June 15, 2016

Required orientation program:

>Friday, June 24, 2016, Hilton Orlando, Orlando, FL

Programming period:

August-December 2016

Required final report due:

January 31 , 2017, or within 30 days of final program (whichever comes first). A final report must be received before a library may apply for an additional   Great Stories Club grant.

XI. Point of Contact

If you have questions about the program, contact:

Public Programs Office
American Library Association
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045

To access the application system, sign in with your profile.