Innovations in Reading Prize

The National Book Foundation’s annual Innovations in Reading Prize awards $10,000 to an individual or organization for developing a project which creates and sustains a lifelong love of reading.

Each year, the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize awards $10,000 to an individual or organization that has developed an innovative project which creates and sustains a lifelong love of reading in the community they serve. In addition, the Foundation recognizes four projects to receive the designation of honorable mention.

Applications for the 2019 Innovations in Reading Prize will open at 9am on January 4, 2019. Applications are due by 11:59pm EST on February 15, 2019.

Applications must be submitted online.

If you have questions, please contact Jordan Smith at or call 212.685.0261.

Who is eligible?

All U.S. citizens and non-profit organizations with 501c3 status are eligible for this prize. Previous winners can apply for new initiatives.

What is the prize?

  • There are four honorable mentions, and one winner of a $10,000 prize
  • Announcements via the press, social media, our newsletter, and on the NBF website
  • Invitation to present at National Book Foundation’s annual Why Reading Matters conference (next conference slated for June 2020; details forthcoming).

What are we looking for?

Applicants should:

  • Share the National Book Foundation’s mission to expand the audience for literature in America;
  • Focus on reading, and not exclusively literacy skills;
  • Demonstrate innovation in mission, approach, and/or audience/community served;
  • Apply for an existing program/project/initiative with evidence of success—as Innovations in Reading is a prize and not a grant, the goal is to reward work already underway, encouraging it to continue and/or expand.

We strongly encourage applicants to read about past winners to get a sense of programs we support.

How is a winner chosen?

Each year, National Book Foundation assembles a panel of literary professionals to serve as reviewers. Applications are reviewed by the panel, who select a set of finalists. Finalists are then presented to the National Book Foundation Board of Directors for final selections.

The 2019 winner and honorable mentions will be announced the first week of May.

How do I apply?

You may submit your own application, or nominate an organization or individual’s project (please notify the nominee you are submitting an application for the Innovations in Reading Prize on their behalf).

Complete the online application.

You will need:

  • Contact information and organizational details
  • Two reference letters from individuals familiar with the work of the applicant (if you are nominating an organization or individual, you can write one of the reference letters)
  • Several short narratives (500 words or fewer unless otherwise noted):
    • Description of the project
    • Description of the community served by the project (250 words or fewer)
    • Details of how the Project impacts the community served
    • What makes the Project innovative
    • Information on how prize money would be used

Please direct any questions about the application process to Jordan Smith,

To stay up-to-date with Innovations in Reading news, please subscribe to our newsletter.

Innovations in Reading logoSince 2009, the National Book Foundation has awarded the Innovations in Reading Prize to an individual or organization that inspires readers and engages 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 recognizes literary activists who share the National Book Foundation’s aims to engage readers from all backgrounds.

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

Applications for the 2019 Innovations in Reading Prize are now open and are due by 11:59pm EST on February 15, 2019.

You can review application guidelines and apply here.

The Academy of American Poets, Teach This Poem project

Appalachian Prison Book Project

Friends of the Homer Library

Jewish Women International’s National Library Initiative

Words Without Borders Campus

Barbershop Books


Great Reading Games

Poetry in Motion

Reach Out and Read

Next Chapter Book Club

The Harry Potter Alliance

LGBT Books to Prisoners

Limitless Libraries

Traveling Stories

Reach Incorporated

African Poetry Book Fund

Call Me Ishmael

Lambda Literary


Blue Star Families’ Books on Bases

Books for Kids

Chicago Books to Women in Prison

Hopa Mountain’s StoryMakers

Las Comadres Para Las Americas

Little Free Library

The Uni Project

Reading is the Way Up

The Uprise Books Project



Lilli Leight

Literacy Chicago's Reading Against the Odds

Real Men Read Storytime and Mentoring

Street Books

Electric Literature

Kore Press

My Own Book


826 Valencia


Free Minds

Mount Olive Baptist Church

United Through Reading

James Patterson’s Read Kiddo Read

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