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School library literacy grants available

This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the beginning of the application period for Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grants. This program, which is open to school libraries, provides $27 million in federal funding to support the improvement of literacy skills for youth in high-need schools and communities.U.S. Department of Education Seal, which bears a tree with a sun shining in the background

Applicants have until May 18 to submit a grant proposal to the Department. Of note this year, the Department has placed a priority on funding proposals that meet specific priorities. Grant applications demonstrate a clear rationale for the activities being proposed, and that promote the use of STEM as part of its program, and/or implement programs in rural communities or schools could be awarded additional points during consideration. Full details regarding the application process and submission requirements are available through the link above.

At least half of all IAL grants are reserved for the development and improvement of an effective school library program. Grants can be used for book distribution, professional literacy development for librarians and purchase of up-to-date library materials. The Department of Education notes that IAL funds are intended to support high-quality programs designed to develop and improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through 12th grade in high-need local educational agencies and schools. National non-profit organizations are also eligible to apply for IAL grants and may develop and/or implement programs while partnering with school libraries. The Department of Education estimates it will issue grants to as many as 30 schools and six non-profits.

Recently, ALA members advocated to support IAL funds during the annual “Dear Appropriator” campaign. Letters in the House (signed by 93 Representatives) and Senators (signed by 35 Senators) called for continued funding for the only program with dedicated funding for school libraries. The FY 2018 Omnibus package recently passed by Congress included level funding for IAL at $27 million.

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.

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