Robert Wilder, Winner of the 2009 Innovations in Reading Prize

Like many other teachers and writers, I try to find myriad ways to get good books into other people’s hands. Whether it’s a kindergartner struggling over his first sentence, a high school student trying to find her voice in the wilderness of adolescence, or an intellectually starved friend at a dinner party, books are my gesture toward a better life for anyone willing to turn some pages. Reading provides a sustained relationship with our minds and the minds of countless writers trying to pursue thoughts and ideas, beauty and humanity. Winning the Innovations in Reading Prize is a great honor and will give me the energy to keep fighting the good fight.

“As both a student and co-teacher in Rob’s classroom, I was awed and inspired by his ability to draw out insights and surprisingly sophisticated opinions regarding literature. He demands a level of intellectuality that his students are eager to live up to and chooses literature and teaches it in a way that expands the minds of his students. Rob shaped my education and life and as teacher and mentor.”
—Rachel, age 25, Davis, CA

“From Rob I learned that my voice, my perspective, and my (mundane teenage) life were worth writing about. Suddenly writing wasn’t only about producing dry, regurgitated papers for class and reading no longer became a drag. Rob’s teaching opened up a whole new world for me to escape into. By capturing my experiences and conjuring up new, impossible ones, I could envision a broader life beyond Santa Fe and a better, funnier, far more talented version of myself. Rob was the first “real” writer I ever knew and remains a model of a true teacher-scholar I strive to be.”
—Molly, age 29, Ph.D. Sociology, Lecturer, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA