The National Book Foundation (NBF) announced the inaugural cohort of Fellows selected for the NBF Teacher Fellowship, a new initiative to support and celebrate 6th-12th grade teachers using innovative methods to make reading for pleasure a part of their students’ school day experience. The 2023/2024 NBF Teacher Fellows were selected by a committee, also announced today, of five authors, educators, and literary experts.
“While we were developing our strategic plan, aimed at guiding us through the landmark 75th National Book Awards and beyond, we wanted to join forces with teachers at a time when access to diverse books is being challenged in classrooms and libraries at an alarming and accelerating rate across the country,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “The NBF Teacher Fellowship, our latest initiative, aims to do just that by supporting teachers as they implement creative projects that connect more young people with great literature. As the daughter of two teachers, I am deeply inspired by our first cohort of intrepid educators who are already helping to develop lifelong readers by making literature fun, enjoyable, and exciting for their students.”
The 2023/2024 NBF Teacher Fellows are educators in urban, suburban, and rural communities across seven states—Georgia, Iowa, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas. Their subject areas include English Language Arts, Social Studies, Spanish, and a Special Education Reading Intervention Class that, when combined, will serve over 1,400 6th-12th grade students during the upcoming academic year. All eight of the selected NBF Teacher Fellows will implement creative and dynamic activities—ranging from gamified reading competitions and bilingual book clubs to reading aloud to senior citizens—that foster a culture of reading and encourage students to become lifelong readers.
“The NBF Teacher Fellowship is the newest addition to our robust slate of education and access initiatives that aim to connect young people across the U.S. with access to exceptional books, authors, and a lifelong love of reading, and teachers are an essential ally in this work,” said Jordan Smith, Deputy Director of the National Book Foundation. “We see the NBF Teacher Fellowship as a unique pathway for the Foundation to support educators who are engaging with their students thoughtfully and dynamically, and who are committed to helping young people see themselves and their communities reflected in the books they read.”
The NBF Teacher Fellows receive a $3,000 stipend upon completion of the program as well as a $2,000 book buying budget. Fellows will develop or extend an initiative that promotes reading for pleasure in their classroom; incorporate National Book Award-honored titles into their curriculum; and participate in a professional learning community with their cohort.
The 2023/2024 selection committee includes authors, educators, and literary experts with a strong commitment to expanding access to excellent literature for young people. Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello is a program manager for Miami Book Fair and the author of Hour of the Ox. Andrew Donnelly is a Visiting Assistant Professor in English & Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, and former Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow at the National Book Foundation who helped develop the Teacher Fellowship in its earliest stages. Becky Goetzinger is the Senior Content Specialist of Family Engagement at the National Center for Families Learning and longtime partner on the Foundation’s Book Rich Environments initiative. Tracey Jones-Adzaho is an English teacher at the Foshay Learning Center and Coordinator for the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) program. Randy Ribay is a former teacher and the author of Patron Saints of Nothing, a Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
The online application for the 2024/2025 NBF Teacher Fellowship will open in February 2024 (date subject to change). Interested applicants may review the Program & Application Details; full details will be posted in early 2024. Learn more about the NBF Teacher Fellowship at the Foundation’s website.
Churchill High School
San Antonio, TX
9th & 10th grade English Language Arts
Project: A gamified reading competition that incentivizes reading for fun; throughout the competition, participating students and entire classes can win fun and academic prizes.
Tapp Middle School
Powder Springs, GA
6th-8th grade Reading
Project: “BLOOM – Brains Learning to Overcome Obstacles and Mountains,” an initiative that crosses content and cultures to expose students to a wide range of literature and promote community connection through reading and sharing about books.
Oskaloosa High School
9th-12th grade Spanish
Project: Holding voluntary book circles for students in upper-level Spanish classes with the goal of increasing language fluency, immersing students in the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and communities, and encouraging students to read diverse narrative experiences in English and Spanish.
George McGovern Middle School
Sioux Falls, SD
6th-8th grade Special Education
Project: Students meet weekly with a senior citizen mentor buddy to read National Book Award-honored titles aloud with the goal of improving literacy skills and building relationships.
Shawnee Middle School
6th grade English Language Arts
Project: Students read National Book Award-honored titles to learn about the United States’ history in preparation for creating their own graphic novel, zine, short story, or short video/podcast.
Science Leadership Academy
9th-12th grade English Language Arts
Project: A year-long contemporary fiction book club where, after students finish reading a book of their choosing, they create an “Author Emulation Handbook” to analyze the author’s craft, write their own creative scene inspired by the author, and share their projects gallery-style with their classmates.
Bronx Park Middle School
8th grade Social Studies
Project: Students read historical fiction and nonfiction titles aligned with their curriculum units covering 1865 to the present, which center marginalized voices traditionally less heard in history classes, increasing students’ connection to the text and making history lessons more relatable and enjoyable.
Rodrigo Joseph Rodriguez
William Charles Akins Early College High School
11th & 12th grade English Language Arts
Project: Student-led book and poetry clubs that focus on finding “bookjoy” through discussing the joys of reading, including personalized book reviews, recommendations, and in-person and online book chats hosted by students.
Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello is the author of Hour of the Ox, winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She co-translated Yi Won’s The World’s Lightest Motorcycle, which won the 2022 Translation Grand Prize from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. Cancio-Bello has received fellowships from the NEA, Kundiman, Knight Foundation, and American Literary Translators Association, and her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, the New York Times, and more. She is co-director for the Adoptee Literary Festival and PEN America Miami/South Florida Chapter, and a program manager for Miami Book Fair.
Andrew Donnelly is a Visiting Assistant Professor in English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. He holds a PhD in English from Harvard University and was a Mellon ACLS Public Fellow at the National Book Foundation, where he worked with NBF’s educational programs. He was a high school English teacher in Arkansas and continues to work with the Freedom Project Network of youth empowerment programs in Mississippi.
Becky Goetzinger is the Senior Content Specialist – Family Engagement at the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). Her work focuses on creating high-quality professional learning for K-12 educators. Becky brings 24 years of experience as classroom teacher, reading interventionist, and instructional coach to NCFL. During her career, she taught elementary, middle, and high school. She has also served an adjunct professor teaching educator-preparation courses at the collegiate level. Becky holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in Reading Education from the University of Louisville, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Social Change from Bellarmine University. Becky lives in Kentucky. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes, traveling, cheering for her favorite team (Go Cats!), and spending time with family and friends.
Tracey Jones-Adzaho has spent the last three decades teaching English to middle and high school students. As a dedicated teacher at Foshay Learning Center and Coordinator for the NAI program, she fuses her educational and professional experiences to impact young minds. In this capacity she incorporates the development of critical thinking skills to all of her students. Mrs. Jones-Adzaho’s passion and purpose is fueled by her steadfast belief that when people are educated, they can significantly contribute to their families and society in various aspects and fields, thus creating a stable and stimulating community. She leads by example, earning a Master of Science in Education from the University of Southern California and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from California State University.
Randy Ribay is an award-winning author of young adult fiction. His most recent novel, Patron Saints of Nothing, earned five starred reviews, was selected as a Freeman Book Award winner, and was a Finalist for the National Book Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Walden Book Award, Edgar Award, International Thriller Writers Award, and the CILIP Carnegie Medal. His other works include Project Kawayan, After the Shot Drops, and An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes. Randy earned his BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his EdM in Language and Literacy from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, son, and cat-like dog.