Past Programs Copy


Learn more about the National Book Foundation’s past education and public programming below

The National Book Foundation has hosted a slate of mission-driven public and education programs, all designed to support and expand the audience for literature in America. Learn more about past programs and initiatives at the Foundation.

Author in Focus

Authors Ibi Zoboi (center) and Jason Reynolds (right) at the DC Public Library for a celebration of the literary legacy of James Baldwin. Photo credit: Jeremy Mines
Authors Ibi Zoboi (center) and Jason Reynolds (right) at the DC Public Library for a celebration of the literary legacy of James Baldwin. Photo credit: Jeremy Mines

The National Book Foundation’s Author in Focus program sought to highlight and reframe the work of selected, historical authors from the National Book Awards family whose work is deserving of a renewed celebration and revival. Author in Focus consists of a year of nationwide educational and public programming celebrating these important writers and contextualizing their work for today’s reader.

The National Book Awards has a stellar record of identifying and rewarding quality writing since its inception in 1950, when William Carlos Williams received the first Award for Poetry. William Faulkner was honored the following year for Fiction, and so on through time. Many previous Winners of the National Book Award are now firmly established in the canon of American literature, including Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, Elizabeth Bishop, and Adrienne Rich. Author in Focus is designed to shine the spotlight on some of the most singular National Book Awards–honored writers in our history.

Photos, video, and more from the inaugural year of Author in Focus: James Baldwin (2018-2019).

Eat, Drink & Be Literary

Salman Rushdie, Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan +1 917 450 2345 mail@beowulfsheeha
Salman Rushdie, Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan

A unique series for savvy writers, readers, and eaters, presented in partnership with Brooklyn Academy of Music, Eat, Drink & Be Literary brought major contemporary authors to BAMcafé for intimate dinners, entertaining readings, and engaging discussions. The series ran from 2005 to 2020, and held a special virtual series of conversations in 2021.

Eat, Drink & Be Literary featured acclaimed authors from around the world, including Chinua Achebe, Alison Bechdel, Michael Cunningham, Lydia Davis, Edwidge Danticat, Louise Erdrich, Marlon James, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-Rae Lee, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Salman Rushdie, George Saunders, and Zadie Smith.

Recordings can be found in the  Shelby White & Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, a program of the BAM Hamm Archives.

Innovations In Reading Prize

Next Chapter Book Club, 2016 Innovations In Reading Winner
Next Chapter Book Club, 2016 Innovations In Reading Winner

From 2009-2020, the National Book Foundation awarded the Innovations in Reading Prize to an individual or organization that inspired readers and engaged new audiences with literature. From bicycle-powered libraries that serve Portland, OR’s homeless community to empowering Harry Potter fans to build libraries around the world, the Innovations in Reading Prize recognized literary activists who share the National Book Foundation’s aims to engage readers from all backgrounds.

Each spring, the Foundation’s Board of Directors named one $10,000 winner, as well as up to four projects for honorable mentions.

View past honorees from 2009-2020.

Notes From the Reading Life

Notes from the Reading Life with Desus Nice and Rebecca Carroll at the Bronx Library Center. Photo credit: Christian Rodriquez

Notes from the Reading Life was a discussion series featuring some of New York City’s most well-known and well-read residents discussing the books that excite and inspire them—the books they grew up with and the ones that guided them through their careers, helping to make them into who they are today. Presented in partnership with the New York Public Library, Notes from the Reading Life takes place branches throughout the city, with each event featuring a special guest from fields such as culture, art, entertainment, or public service in conversation with an acclaimed author—celebrating the formative role of books in both of their lives. Audience members receive free copies of a book selected in partnership with the speakers and local librarians, and each branch produces special future programming around that book.

View past events from 2018-2019 with Sarah Jessica Parker, Sonia Manzano, Desus Nice, and more.

Raising Readers

Raising Readers Training Session 2018
Raising Readers Training Session, 2018.

Born out of a partnership with the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD), the Raising Readers initiative aimed to empower adults who work with and raise children to expand their own love of books and reading, in order to better model the habit of reading for pleasure with the young people in their lives. This innovative program provided paid professional development training for out-of-school time provider staff who work with young people through after-school and summer programs, and paired staff with NBF teaching artists to collaboratively run book clubs for parents at sites across New York City, complete with book giveaways, high-profile author talks, and book shopping opportunities for participants.

More information about the program from 2018-2021.

Why Reading Matters

St. Francis College President Miguel Martinez-Saenz welcoming attendees during the 2018 Why Reading Matters Conference. Photo credit: Christian Rodriguez

The National Book Foundation’s Why Reading Matters conference brought together diverse stakeholders to explore a simple idea, that reading matters, from a variety of complex perspectives that includes educators, service providers, writers, librarians, academics, publishing professionals, literary activists, and more.

From 2016 to 2018, the conference grew to a daylong event complete with a keynote presentation, celebration of the Innovations in Reading prize, author appearance, and a series of rich breakout sessions.

More information on the 2018 Why Reading Matters conference.