Presenter of the National Book Awards

Innovations in Reading Prize, 2010


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.

In the Foundation's second year of offering the Innovations In Reading Prize, we received approximately 150 applications, with all regions of the country represented.



The 2010 Innovations In Reading Prize Recipients:


Brooklyn, NY

Cellpoems is a poetry journal distributed via text message and on the Web that publishes original work by some of the world’s best established poets, including Charles Simic, Billy Collins, Kimiko Hahn, Michael Hofmann, and Matthea Harvey, as well as emerging poets, such as Kate Angus, Chris Bakken, and Andrew Zawacki.

Cellpoems provides entree into poetry that is naturally congruent with contemporary daily routines. By publishing poems of just 140 characters or less, Cellpoems does not aim to decrease readers’ attention spans; rather, it adds focused, distilled work to a grand tradition of short poems, from the tanka and haiku to the monosonnet, and aims to present poetry to as many readers as possible by making it easily accessible to digitally-minded readers.

To receive Cellpoems on your phone, simply text JOIN to 317-426-POEM. Submissions are accepted via text messages to the same number, or at


826 Valencia

San Francisco, CA

826 Valencia is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping students ages 6 to 18 improve their writing skills, and to fostering a lifelong passion for reading and writing. Founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and veteran teacher Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia now has over 1,600 volunteers including published authors, magazine founders, filmmakers, and other professionals who donate their time to work with thousands of students each year and who allow us to offer all of our programs for free. Five days a week in our after-school tutoring program, students work one-on-one with trained tutors to complete their homework, and then they spend 20 minutes reading books from our library. After homework and reading, students work on a variety of extracurricular writing projects that we then publish for real-world audiences.

(photo by Jordan Graham)


Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Washington, DC

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop uses books and creative writing to empower teenaged boys charged and incarcerated as adults at the Washington, DC Jail to transform their own lives. The young inmates come from some of the city’s most crime-stricken and impoverished neighborhoods. At 16 and 17 years old, they read, on average, at a fifth-grade level, and most have never completed a book before joining the book club. Free Minds meets weekly at the jail to discuss works of literature, choosing titles that will resonate with the boys’ own experiences. By introducing them to the life-changing power of books, and mentoring and connecting them to supportive services throughout their incarceration into reentry, Free Minds inspires these youths to see their potential and pursue positive new paths in life.


Mount Olive Baptist Church

Hopkins, SC

Mount Olive Baptist is a small church in a rural community in South Carolina where the nearest library branch is 10 miles away. In order to give children more exposure to books, the church membership took the bull by the horns and created their own children's library by going to garage sales and buying books, dictionaries, and a set of encyclopedias. Books are also brought in from Richland County Public Library in Columbia, one of the nation's best libraries. Every week, each child in Sunday School gets to talk about what they are reading. Church officials have been wonderfully supportive of this secular activity, and adults are coming in to re-read books they read as children.


United Through Reading

San Diego, CA

Imagine a soldier, stationed in Iraq, entering a tent, dropping his gear, and picking up a copy of Charlotte’s Web to read to his daughter at home. Imagine that child sitting down tonight and listening to her dad read the first few chapters. And then imagine the comfort she feels knowing her dad is safe and well, as she picks up Charlotte’s Web to read the next few chapters on her own.

United Through Reading connects families through good books. Whether they are separated by oceans and continents or simply by circumstance, United Through Reading offers parents who are away from their children the opportunity to be recorded on DVD reading storybooks from more than 220 recording locations around the world. For families separated by military deployments, the Military Program is available on nearly all deployed US Navy ships, on bases and installations around the world, in desert camps in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in more than 70 USO centers worldwide. The Transitions Program makes the same opportunity available for incarcerated parents in local, state, and federal corrections facilities—affecting our nation’s most vulnerable, the children of the incarcerated. The Grandparent Program, the newest program, is currently in pilot stages in San Diego County.

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 aprogram 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

Sponsored by a generous grant from the

Questions? Contact the Foundation at 212.685.0261.