We the People Bookshelf

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NEH Bookshelf

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 six themes were “Courage,” “Freedom,” “Becoming American,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” “Created Equal,” and “Picturing America.”

“Picturing America” programs are being conducted in libraries between May 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010.

Applications for this year’s “A More Perfect Union” Bookshelf will be accepted online September 8, 2009, through January 29, 2010. Applicants will be notified by April 9, 2010, whether or not they will receive a Bookshelf. Libraries are expected to conduct their “A More Perfect Union” programs between May 1, 2010, and April 30, 2011.

Applicants for this year’s “A More Perfect Union” 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.


For more information about Bookshelf themes, books, and awards, please consult the following:

2010-2011 Bookshelf on “A More Perfect Union

2009-2010 Bookshelf on “Picturing America

2008-2009 Bookshelf on “Created Equal

2007-2008 Bookshelf on “Pursuit of Happiness

2006-2007 Bookshelf on “Becoming American

2005-2006 Bookshelf on “Freedom

2003-2004 Bookshelf on “Courage

United Cake of America by Julie Paschkis
Illustration by Julie Paschkis (www.juliepaschkis.com)