Innovations in Reading Prize, 2011
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 third year of offering the Innovations in Reading Prize, we received approximately 120 applications from individuals and institutions all over the country.
The 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize recipients are:
Burton Freeman for My Own Book
New York, NY
When Burt Freeman retired as general counsel of a major New York City bank twelve years ago, he put his energy toward creating a charitable venture that would promote literacy for New York City children. The concept behind My Own Book is amazing in its simplicity: Third-grade children from inner-city schools go on a class trip to a bookstore where My Own Book volunteers help the children purchase $50 worth of books to help start and build their own personal libraries. A program that began in 1999 with only one school and one volunteer—Burt—My Own Book has grown to include 73 volunteers who serve 43 schools allowing over 2,500 students to enjoy the opportunity to purchase their very own books. While the kids are thrilled by the trip, there is no one more energized than Burt. As My Own Book’s most active volunteer, Burt revels in his interactions with the children as he helps them find books that are just right for them. Burt’s remarkable vision, generosity, and passion for sharing his own love of learning with children in need have made this program a great success.
For eighteen years, Kore Press has been defined by innovation. Whether it's publishing the highest quality women's literature, educating youth, or doing creative community programming, they have been on the edge of using literature to advance progressive social change. As a community of literary activists, Kore is dedicated to engaging the public through several visionary, creative writing projects. The "Grrls Literary Activism Workshop" is an after-school creative-writing-as-activism program that engages youth with America's long, literary history of passionate writing intended for communal, public circulation in the world rather than in the private form of a book (using t-shirts, video PSAs, readings, podcasts, poems wrapped around tampons and loaded into a repurposed tampon machine that travels to public restrooms). "Bounce Back" uses literature in surprising ways to raise awareness and create safety for queer students, teachers, and staff on high school and university campuses (using a 40-foot banner, a blog, a newspaper ad, posters in elevators, coffee cup sleeves, repurposed political yard signs). And with "Coming in Hot," Kore created, produced, and toured a play based on a collection of poetry and memoir by women in the US military as a means to both expand audiences into traditionally non-literary populations (military, veterans, teens) and to create a vehicle for dialogue.
Electric Literature is the quarterly journal and upstart publishing company The Washington Post called "a refreshingly bold act of optimism." Its mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to keep storytelling a vital force in popular culture. Since its founding in June, 2009, the company has published "some of the country's best writers" (The New York Times): Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham; MacArthur "Genius" Grant winners Colson Whitehead and Lydia Davis; literary favorites T Cooper, Kevin Brockmeier, Lynne Tillman, J. Robert Lennon, and Lydia Millet; and heavyweights Rick Moody, Jim Shepard, Aimee Bender, Javier Marías, and Joy Williams, among others. Electric Literature has over 150,000 followers on Twitter and is successfully expanding its audience through YouTube videos, iPhone and iPad apps, and other ways of using new technology and media to redefine what it means to “publish” in the digital age. In October 2010, Electric Literature created its own app-building software because they couldn't find an existing one that met their needs or their budget. It was a success; thirty-five percent of the journal’s readership uses their app to read the anthology on the iPhone or iPad. To share that success, Electric Publisher now develops book apps for other organizations on a sliding scale, to make sure that they’re affordable.
YARN, the Young Adult
Imagine. Envision. Write. Revise. Submit. Read.
Founded in 2010, YARN is the first independent online literary journal dedicated to young adult (YA) literature; they publish short fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews, as well as an editors' blog and lesson plans for teachers. While there have long been hundreds of journals publishing curated short-form literature for adults, the few existing YA journals published primarily teen writers. YARN was founded to showcase a diversity of fresh voices in YA by including teens alongside established writers and emerging adult writers, to elevate the YA genre and promote literacy. The YARN editors believe that readers are made, not born—and they are made with each work they read. The journal provides a broad swath of content: exclusive interviews with luminaries like Meg Cabot and Mitali Perkins, boundary-pushing stories like those by Jonathan Papernick, and finely crafted poems like those by college student Allison Malecha. Its content acts as gateway reading, enticing readers to return to YARN and to venture into their local libraries and bookstores.
The deadline for
2011 applications has pasSED
The following is for informational
The complete application process is available in the Application Form.
PDF Application form to be filled out by hand and faxed or mailed to the Foundation. Download >
PDF Application form to be filled out on your computer using Adobe Acrobat and emailed to the Foundation.
Sponsored by a generous grant from
Questions? Contact the Foundation at 212.685.0261.
Application design by Erica Hood.