Great Stories Club

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

Application for Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide

RECEIPT DEADLINE: Friday, December 30, 2016, 11:59 p.m. CST
Date posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or
Applicants may wish to download a PDF PREVIEW of the application.

Table of Contents

I. Program Description

The Great Stories Club (GSC) is a three-part, thematic reading and discussion program series developed to engage teens who are facing difficult challenges 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;
  • inspire teens to consider "big questions" about the world around them and their place in it, affecting how they view themselves as thinkers and creators;
  • offer emotional benefits by reducing feelings of depression and isolation, and encouraging empathy through peer-based discussion groups;
  • facilitate reflection and discussion of past actions and future opportunities for positive change inspired by the titles;
  • establish important connections between underserved 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 participating 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 100 GSC grants on the theme “Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide” will be awarded to eligible institutions around the country to support program series that explore key humanities themes presented in the book collection described below. Participating sites will host at least one reading and discussion event for each of the three titles on this reading list.

All GSC programs must take place between March and August 2017.

II. Key Theme and Supporting Works

The current theme of the Great Stories Club is “Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide,” developed by Laura Bates, Professor of English at Indiana State University and author of Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard (Sourcebooks, 2013).

Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide

School shootings, bullying, teen suicide — it seems like you can’t turn on the TV or scroll through your Facebook feed without hearing about some form of teen violence. What’s the cause? It’s true that we all experience stresses like peer pressure, unrequited love and academic stress, but for some young people, these day-to-day anxieties are deepened by feelings of depression, insecurity or self-loathing, feelings that can increase isolation and lead to violence or suicide. In this Great Stories Club series, participants will read and discuss the following three books about characters who are dealing with teen violence and suicide.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker — his classmate and crush — who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life — which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job — Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he's just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable, and Craig stops eating and sleeping — until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it's definitely a funny story.

Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels), illustrated by Matt Weigle

We all know the basics of Romeo and Juliet, but No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels brings the story to life in a new way. These dynamic visual adaptations are impossible to put down. Each of the titles is illustrated in its own unique style, but all are distinctively offbeat, slightly funky, and appealing to teen readers. The book features an illustrated cast of characters, a helpful plot summary, line-by-line translations of the original play, and illustrations that show the reader exactly what’s happening in each scene.

III. Award Information

The ALA Public Programs Office will make up to one hundred (100) Great Stories Club grants to implement the series “Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide.” Programming requirements appear below under Requirements for Grantees.

IV. Benefits for Grant Recipients

ALL recipients of a Great Stories Club “Violence” grant will receive the following.

  • 11 paperback copies of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (10 to gift to participants; 1 for discussion leader/library collection)
  • 11 paperback copies of It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • 11 paperback copies of Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel), illustrated by Matt Weigle
  • 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.
  • NOTE: Applicants who may work with groups of more than 11 readers may include a request for extra copies of the books within the online application. ALA will consider these requests as the project budget allows.

Additionally, up to 50 libraries that are new to the GSC program model, and have not participated in a national orientation workshop on one of the project’s prior themes will receive the following.

  • Travel and accommodation expenses paid for attendance at a project orientation workshop for library project directors, March 9-10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Training will include a thorough review of the humanities content of the series led by national project scholar, Laura Bates; sessions that focus on library outreach and discussion moderation best practices led by national project advisor, Ally Dowds; and an interactive presentation on serving the mental health needs of at-risk youth led by Beth Chung, project advisor and family therapist.

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 September 29, 2017 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.
  • NOTE: Applications from public libraries, academic libraries, or regular high school libraries that are submitted without an appropriate partner organization will not be considered. Please contact prior to submitting an application if you feel that your circumstances merit special consideration.

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 grants between November 1 – December 30, 2016. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to (Coming Soon). 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.
    Indicate whether your library participated in a prior GSC grant initiative, to determine your eligibility to participate in the March 2017 orientation workshop. If you would like to be considered for more than 11 copies of each GSC book, complete the requested information.
    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 series. She or he 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 December 30, 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 also be included in the “Upload Supporting Materials” section ahead.

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 this Great Stories Club 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 (“Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide”) 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 this series. Beyond using the book-specific discussion points that will be provided by ALA, how will you encourage participants to think about the issues presented in the books, including bullying, peer pressure, depression, suicide, and violence? 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. Below, please tell us how you will keep track of this basic information, evaluate your institution’s work on the project overall, maintain key relationships with community partners in the future, and offer referral opportunities for at risk populations after the project’s conclusion (and/or after release, transfer, graduation).

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. Confirm Past Participation and Request Extra Books

Past GSC Participation
Please indicate whether your library received a grant to participate in the GSC series “Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution” and/or “The Art of Change: Creation, Growth and Transformation.” Due to budget limitations, only libraries that have not participated in a prior workshops will have a staff person included in the March 2017 “Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide” workshop.

Request Extra Books
If you can reach more than 11 readers with your GSC series, and would like to be considered for additional books if they are available, please indicate that here. Additional books may be available when awards are announced, or later during the grant term, but this is not guaranteed. Applicants should plan programs based on receiving 11 copies of each book.

8. 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.

9. Certify Authorization to Submit Application

An application to host a Great Stories Club 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.

10. 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.

11. 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 Friday, December 30, 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,

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 January 16, 2017.

X. Award Administration Information



Application deadline:

December 30, 2016

Grant notification:

January 16, 2017

Book collections, promotional materials ship:

January 31, 2017

In-person orientation program (for new GSC project directors):

March 9-10, 2017 in Chicago, IL

Online orientation (for past GSC grantees):

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 – 2-3 pm and Friday, March 3, 2017 – 2-3 pm (Sessions will be archived for those unable to attend the live events)

Programming period:

March – August 2017

Required final report due:

September 29, 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.