National Book Foundation Honors Innovations in Reading


The National Book Foundation (NBF) announced on Tuesday the recipients of its first Innovations in Reading Prize, given to individuals and organizations using innovative approaches to engage readers. This year's winners, each awarded $2,500, include a teacher, a library district, an online book community for teenage girls, a Web site for recommending children’s books, and an organization that helps incarcerated fathers send audio recordings of readings to their children.

Teacher Robert Wilder received the award for his personalized approach to engaging readers with books. "Like many other teachers and writers, I try to find myriad ways to get good books into other people’s hands," Wilder says in a statement on the NBF Web site. "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."

Arizona's Maricopa County Library District, which operates seventeen libraries, was honored for their "Dewey-free" approach to organizing books, which they report has prompted "double-digit increases" in circulation numbers. The library system, taking a cue from bookstores, have organized books by topic in clearly-labeled sections, lowered their shelves, and added lounge furniture to create an atmosphere conducive to "browsing," which patrons, when surveyed, reported as a primary reason to visit the library.

Also honored was the Web site Readergirlz, managed by five authors of young adult literature—Dia Calhoun, Holly Cupala, Lorie Ann Grover, Justina Chen Headley, and Melissa Walker. Each month, the volunteer-run site highlights a different novel, along with reviews and an author interview, and a corresponding community service project. The group also orchestrates an annual project called Operation Teen Book Drop, which delivers publisher-donated books to hospitalized teens.

Best-selling author James Patterson received the award for his Web site, which categorizes and recommends books for children, from picture books to titles for early readers and preteens. The site, targeted to parents and teachers, also features a lesson plan exchange for educators and a discussion forum.

Fathers Bridging the Miles was recognized for its work with incarcerated Hawaii-based fathers who have been transferred far from their families to the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. Twice every month the organization, a branch of the nonprofit children's literacy organization Read to Me International, delivers to each child of an inmate a book selected by his or her father along with a CD recording of him reading the book.

The NBF selected the recipients from a pool of one hundred fifty entries whose nominees reached out to readers using methods that ranged from literary magazines to technology to readings and performance, rewarding "programs that create and sustain a life long love of reading" and the "promotion of reading for its own sake."