News | October 28, 2015

Library of Congress Literacy Award Winners for 2015 Announced

Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao today announced the recipients of the 2015 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, a program originated and sponsored by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein. The Literacy Awards, first announced in January 2013, help support organizations working to alleviate the problems of illiteracy and aliteracy in the United States and worldwide. The awards highlight and reward organizations that do exemplary, innovative and easily replicable work. In conjunction with the awards presentation and its annual Best Practices publication and related programming, the Library of Congress encourages new groups, organizations and individuals to become involved. A formal presentation of the awards will take place next spring.

The recipients are:

David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000): First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that works to further educational equity by tackling the scarcity of books and educational resources for millions of children growing up in low-income families in the United States and Canada. Through its growing network, currently numbering nearly 200,000 schools, libraries, after-school programs, social-service organizations and other groups serving children in need, First Book has provided more than 135 million books for children ages 0-18 since its inception 23 years ago. First Book collaborates with publishers, literacy experts and content providers to provide relevant, best-in-class books and educational resources free of charge or at low cost. Through the First Book National Book Bank, the organization works with publishers to secure mass donations of new children’s books, which are then distributed to classrooms and programs across the country. In 2008, the organization created the First Book Marketplace, an online site with more than 6,000 titles, where schools and educators serving low-income populations can choose the books and resources they need at discounts of 50 to 90 percent. First Book also secures third-party funding for schools and programs that have no budget for books or resources. First Book further amplifies the voices of those serving children in need through its Stories for All Project, to create more diverse and inclusive content that celebrates different cultures, ethnicities, family structures, abilities and experiences.

The American Prize ($50,000): United Through Reading

To help active military personnel stay involved in their children’s literacy development, United Through Reading unites military families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together. The nonprofit organization films service members reading storybooks and sends the video recordings and the books home to their families. The program is based on research showing that reading aloud to children is a key factor in their acquisition of literacy skills. United Through Reading has recording locations on military bases and outposts, deployed U.S. Navy ships, U.S. Coast Guard cutters and select USOs. At these nearly 200 locations, more than 500 volunteers per year coach service members on storytelling techniques to engage young children. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, nearly 2 million military parents, spouses and children have benefited from the program.

The International Prize ($50,000): Beanstalk

Beanstalk is a volunteer-based literacy organization that provides one-on-one support to children ages 6 to 11. Teachers refer children to Beanstalk when they are struggling with reading in the classroom and could benefit from enhanced support. Volunteer tutors work consistently with their assigned children, meeting twice a week for the entire school year to read, play and talk together. By creating a less-structured environment, without consequences for perceived failure, tutors are able to help the students engage with and enjoy reading and learning. In 2011, Beanstalk launched a campaign called Get London Reading to raise awareness of the importance of reading and literacy and to galvanize public support for literacy-promotion efforts.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards Advisory Board, which comprises a broad range of experts in the field of literacy and reading promotion, provided recommendations to former Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who made the final selections. The award-winning organizations best exemplified the intent of the awards:

The Rubenstein Prize is awarded to an organization that has made outstanding and measurable contributions in increasing literacy levels and has demonstrated exceptional and sustained depth and breadth in its commitment to the advancement of literacy. The organization will meet the highest standards of excellence in its operations and services. This award may be given to any organization based either inside or outside the United States.

The American Prize is awarded to an organization that has made a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels or the national awareness of the importance of literacy. This award may be given to any organization that is based in the United States.

The International Prize is awarded to an organization or national entity that has made a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels. This award may be given to any organization that is based in a country outside the United States.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress ( has become a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s website and administers both the Library’s Young Readers Center and its Poetry and Literature Center.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may be accessed through the Library’s website,