Innovations in Reading Prize, 2009

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.



The Foundation's first year of offering the Innovations in Reading Prize (IRP) saw 150 applications from 30 states. Applications fell into the following categories:

Education & Community Outreach
Tools & Technology
Schools & School Libraries
Public & University Libraries
Literary Magazines & Publishers
Book Clubs, Reading Series & Performance

A selection process was created based on the following criteria: level of innovation, impact and need, with innovation always carrying the most weight. Impact and need came into play only in cases where two programs were judged to be equally innovative. “Innovation” was not limited to meaning only technologically innovative. In some cases, innovation meant identifying a need in the community and developing a program to address that need in a simple and effective way. In all cases, selections were made to reward programs that create and sustain a life long love of reading

Innovations in Reading Prize winners

Fathers Bridging the Miles
(a program of Read to Me International)

Read To Me International Foundation is a Hawaii-based non-profit organization devoted to promoting children’s literacy. With the simple mission of spreading the love and joy of reading aloud, its goal is to have every child read to for at least 10 minutes every day. The Fathers Bridging the Miles program operates in the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona.

“It is amazing to see the relationships between fathers and their children bloom over books and reading. The children enjoy getting the books in the mail and love listening to their fathers’ voices. We know our program is having an impact when we meet former program participants after being paroled and they are still reading to their children!” according to Pat Mizuno, Program Director.

Lynne Waihee, President of Read To Me International added that “We’ve always known that magic occurs when you put a child, a book and a parent together. It’s nice to know that through our program, children who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity can share that magic with their fathers.”


Maricopa County Library District

Maricopa County Library District (AZ) operates 17 libraries throughout one of the largest and fastest growing counties in the U.S. Its mission is to provide access to a wealth of informational and recreational resources for people of all ages and backgrounds so that they may have the opportunity to expand their horizons through reading and learning.

“The Library District sees itself as a popular reading library meeting the needs of its customers. Our approach is customer centric,” Harry R. Courtright, the Director, said. On customer surveys, when we asked our customers what they want, they said they come to the library to ‘browse’. We already were thinking about the ‘neighborhood’ concept when the customer surveys convinced me that organizing the libraries into neighborhoods, the way bookstores are organized, would be a good way to meet our customers’ needs.

“Part of the appeal comes from the addition of bookstore-like features, including lower shelves, lounge furniture and grouping topics together...but we took the concept further and decided to drop the Dewey system completely…and our customers like it. It’s comfortable and easy and circulation figures show double digit increases. Customers are reading more. Browsing works."

“It is certainly an honor to receive this recognition from the National Book Foundation by awarding us an Innovation in Reading Prize for our Dewey-less approach to organizing libraries. It may inspire other libraries to also try new ways to get people reading.”

James Patterson’s

When James Patterson found out his son Jack didn’t share the same love of books as his father, James took it upon himself to fix the situation, by going out every summer and choosing books he knew Jack would love. He even started writing books for kids to get Jack interested. James decided to take his passion for books and reading to a new level with, an easy, hassle-free place where parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians will find the very best books to turn their kids into lifelong, dedicated readers.

“There are millions of kids who have never read a book they’ve liked. There are also thousands of children’s books out there—this site lists the ones they won’t be able to resist,” James says.

Children’s literature consultant Judy Freeman also works on the site, writing a bulk of the reviews. “Our goal is to select compelling pageturners kids won't be able to put down and make them eager to read more. While we originally thought the targeted audience for ReadKiddoRead would be grownups, it's been gratifying to see how much kids have been using it as well.” says Judy.

“We’re ecstatic over winning this recognition,” says James. “The site is working. And with the National Book Foundation on our side, I hope many more adults will be inspired to take their kids’ reading habits into their own hands.”


The three co-founders from left to right:readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by five critically acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Holly Cupala (A Light That Never Goes Out), Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), and Melissa Walker (the Violet series). readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award and the Association for Library Services to Children Great Web Sites Award.

To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month. Each year they conduct a minimum of two additional special literacy projects, one in October in honor of YALSA's Teen Read Week, and the second in April to raise awareness of Support Teen Literature Day. The latter project is Operation Teen Book Drop (TBD) in partnership with YALSA, and in the first two years, the effort has orchestrated the delivery of nearly 20,000 publisher-donated books to hospitalized teens across the country.

For more information about readergirlz, please visit and, or contact

"With this amazing and generous Innovations in Reading Prize, readergirlz can continue to find new ways to connect teens with the best authors in young adult literature, make reading hip and appealing using the latest technology, and inspire a sense of service through our special literacy projects like Operation Teen Book Drop. Our grateful thanks to the National Book Foundation for making all this possible."
— Dia Calhoun, author and co-founder of readergirlz

"readergirlz is honored and grateful to receive this recognition from the National Book Foundation. As a volunteer organization, this grant will assist our site maintenance and fund further special literacy projects as we challenge teen girls to read, reflect, and reach out."
— Lorie Ann Grover, author and co-founder of readergirlz


Robert Wilder

Like many other teachers and writers, I try to find myriad ways to get good books into other people’s hands. Whether it’s a kindergartner struggling over his first sentence, a high school student trying to find her voice in the wilderness of adolescence, or an intellectually starved friend at a dinner party, books are my gesture toward a better life for anyone willing to turn some pages. Reading provides a sustained relationship with our minds and the minds of countless writers trying to pursue thoughts and ideas, beauty and humanity. Winning the Innovations in Reading Prize is a great honor and will give me the energy to keep fighting the good fight.

“As both a student and co-teacher in Rob's classroom, I was awed and inspired by his ability to draw out insights and surprisingly sophisticated opinions regarding literature. He demands a level of intellectuality that his students are eager to live up to and chooses literature and teaches it in a way that expands the minds of his students. Rob shaped my education and life and as teacher and mentor.”
—Rachel, age 25, Davis, CA

"From Rob I learned that my voice, my perspective, and my (mundane teenage) life were worth writing about. Suddenly writing wasn’t only about producing dry, regurgitated papers for class and reading no longer became a drag. Rob’s teaching opened up a whole new world for me to escape into. By capturing my experiences and conjuring up new, impossible ones, I could envision a broader life beyond Santa Fe and a better, funnier, far more talented version of myself. Rob was the first “real” writer I ever knew and remains a model of a true teacher-scholar I strive to be."
—Molly, age 29, Ph.D. Sociology, Lecturer, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Sponsored by a generous grant from the

Questions? Contact the Foundation at 212.685.0261.