Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced at the Library of Congress National Book Festival the winners of the 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, a program originated and sponsored by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.
The recipients are:
- David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000): Room to Read
Room to Read, founded in 2001, believes that world change starts with educated children and that the best way to create long-term systemic change in the developing world is through literacy and gender equality in education. It focuses on literacy as the foundation of all other learning by developing reading skills and the habit of reading among primary-school children. To achieve this goal, Room to Read increases access to culturally relevant, age-appropriate reading materials; increases the effectiveness of instructors teaching literacy skills; and improves the existing school environment so that it is more conducive to learning. The organization also aims to equalize the educational experience for girls by supporting them in completing secondary school with the academic and life skills necessary to succeed in school and beyond. Room to Read’s service area is Africa and Southeast Asia.
- The American Prize ($50,000): SMART
The third-grade reading level is widely recognized as a key indicator of a child’s future educational success. A student who cannot read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently in third grade. In 1992, the Oregon Children’s Foundation created a program to address the growing number of elementary school children who were reading significantly below grade level. Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) now operates at more than 250 program sites throughout the U.S. and serves approximately 9,000 children each year.
- The International Prize ($50,000): Mother Child Education Foundation
The Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) was started in 1993 and is the largest literacy organization in Turkey. Its mission is to empower the Turkish people through education and enable them to improve the quality of their lives. It operates a variety of projects designed to address family, adult and early childhood literacy. At the time of AÇEV’s founding, only one in 10 children received any form of preschool education before starting primary school, resulting in large deficits in readiness to learn. AÇEV developed the Mother Child Education Program (MOCEP) for low-income mothers and children without access to preschool education. However, early MOCEP trials revealed that not all participating mothers were literate and therefore many were unable to carry out the collaborative cognitive exercises with their children, pushing AÇEV into a complementary area of need, adult literacy.
The Library of Congress Literacy Awards were first announced in January 2013 as a program to help support organizations working to alleviate the problems of illiteracy both in the United States and worldwide. The awards seek to reward those organizations that have been doing exemplary, innovative and easily replicable work over a sustained period of time and to encourage new groups, organizations and individuals to become involved.
“For the second year, David Rubenstein has generously funded these awards, which are so important in drawing attention to the widespread problems of illiteracy worldwide, as well as in providing needed funding to literacy organizations doing outstanding work,” said Billington. “The winning organizations, along with more than a dozen others, are contributing information about their best practices to a publication that will offer ideas for replicating aspects of their programs.”
The Literacy Awards Advisory Board, which comprises a broad range of experts in the field of literacy and reading promotion, provided recommendations to 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 a groundbreaking or sustained record of advancement of literacy by any individual or entity worldwide.
- The American Prize is awarded to a U.S. organization that has made a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels or the national awareness of the importance of literacy
- The International Prize is awarded to an organization or national entity working in a specific country or region that has made a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels.