Innovations in Reading Prize Winners Announced, 2013
Each year, the National Book Foundation awards a number of prizes of up to $2,500 each to individuals and institutions—or partnerships between the two—that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading.
This was the Foundation's fifth year offering the Innovations in Reading Prize. To learn about previous winners, click on one of the prize years in the left margin of this page.
City National Bank for Reading Is the Way Up
City National Bank believes that a good education and the ability to learn throughout one’s career are vital to success in today’s world―and it all starts with reading.
Reading Is the Way Up® was started in 2002 to address the plight of school libraries and the lack of current and compelling books available to students. To date, the program has placed over 170,000 books into the hands of students. City National has done this through strategic partnerships with Barnes and Noble and Reading Is Fundamental, with the goal of promoting book ownership.
In 2005, a literacy grant component was added to the program. Since then, more than $600,000 in grants has been awarded to elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the five states where City National has offices. In 2011, school author visits were added to the program, and each student in attendance gets a signed copy of the author's book. In addition, City National colleagues are encouraged to participate in the program and are given paid time off to do so.
Little Free Library
In 2010, when Todd Bol and Rick Brooks first shared ideas about what was to become the Little Free Library movement, the idea was simple—a box of books that looked like a one-room school house with a sign that said “Free Books.” Posted in his front yard by the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wisconsin, the first model was a memorial to Bol’s mother, a teacher who loved to read. But the curiosity and delight of neighbors suggested there was something more to it. The phrase “Take a Book, Return a Book” explained it pretty well, the name Little Free Library stuck, and the mission became clear—to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world. Sense of community trumped everything. Books became the currency of friendship, and constructing the free neighborhood book exchanges themselves emerged as a new American folk craft.
By late 2011, nearly 400 Little Free Libraries had been installed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and several other states. Within two more years, the total had swelled to between 6,000 and 8,000 in forty-two countries, from Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria to Japan, Australia, Brazil, and a dozen European nations. Millions of people have opened the doors of Little Free Libraries to find good books donated by their neighbors and contributed their favorites for others to read.
The Uni Project
New York, NY
The Uni is a portable reading room for New York City. Conceived of and run by Leslie and Sam Davol, the purpose of the Uni is to provide a new kind of amenity for city residents, while fostering a stronger, more prominent culture of reading and learning at street level.
The Uni consists of lightweight cubes that stack to create an attractive place to gather. Cubes also serve as shelves, providing access to high-quality books and hands-on learning activities for the public to browse and read. Benches provide seating, and experienced volunteers act as hosts. What happens next is simple: people gather around, pull books off shelves, sit down, and read. But the effect is profound: people are transformed into readers on a kind of stage. Neighborhoods are transformed into places where the value of reading and learning is recognized, promoted, and shared.
The Uni was launched with a crowd-funding campaign and put into service on September 11, 2011. In 2012, operating as a nonprofit, Leslie and Sam deployed the Uni ten times in seven different New York City neighborhoods, at times partnering with the Queens and Brooklyn public libraries. They also shipped a second Uni to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for deployment there by the U.S. Consulate, funded by the U.S. State Department.
In 2013, with the support of foundations and a growing list of contributors, the project will more than double the number of NYC deployments, continuing to prioritize emerging public spaces and underserved communities. Leslie and Sam’s goal is to establish a regular circuit for the Uni and involve a growing number of educational partners—teachers, libraries, and museums—who want to reach beyond their walls. The project will also launch a new cart design, created by Uni architects Höweler + Yoon, which will be offered to neighborhoods and cities beyond the reach of the Uni in New York.
The Uprise Books Project
The Uprise Books Project was founded in 2011 with a very simple mission: to encourage underprivileged teens to read by providing them with new banned and challenged books.
Why banned and challenged books? There are a couple of big hurdles when it comes to getting teens to read. Simply getting kids access to books is the first step; kids in poorer neighborhoods tend to have fewer books in the home, they tend to live further from public libraries, and they often attend poorly funded schools.
But just giving teens books isn’t enough. Between family obligations (many are parents themselves), below-standard reading skills, and an environment that discourages anything close to intellectual activities, many disadvantaged teens need a better reason to read than simply being told "it's good for you."
The folks at Uprise believe that the "forbidden fruit" angle of banned and challenged literature could provide that motivation. Anyone who’s ever been a teenager knows that one of the best ways to pique their curiosity about something is to tell them they aren’t allowed to know about it, so why not use that trait for good? The same kid who couldn’t care less that the Modern Library calls The Great Gatsby one of the best novels of the twentieth century might jump at a book challenged for its “language and sexual references.” And judging by the feedback Uprise has received after giving books to a few hundred teens, they think they just might be onto something.
Worldreader is a US and European nonprofit created in 2010 by David Risher (former Amazon.com executive) and Colin McElwee (former ESADE Business School’s marketing director) whose mission is to make digital books (via e-readers and mobile phones) available to children and their families in the developing world, so millions of people can improve their lives. Worldreader combines new technologies, the mobile phone networks, and declining costs to provide immediate access to hundreds of thousands of local textbooks, storybooks, and international literature.
Via its e-reader programs, Worldreader has delivered over 480,000 e-books, impacting nearly 10,000 children and families in six sub-Saharan African countries. Those children now read more, read better, and are improving their communities. In addition, through Worldreader Mobile―a book application―more than half a million people globally are reading a wide variety of books, including educational material, health tips, love stories, prize-winning short stories, children’s books, and classics, all on a device they already own―their mobile phone. Many of the books in Worldreader's programs are from African publishers and authors. When students begin to read, they are more engaged when the stories in their books are familiar to them. Worldreader partners with African publishers to make their books available to children in the e-reader programs, and to everyone through Worldreader Mobile. At the same time, the literature of the world is of immense interest to children and adults everywhere. Worldreader's international publishing partners make their books available at no cost, exposing children and families everywhere to some of the best-known literature in the world.
Application design by Erica Hood.