Now in its fifth year, the Innovations in Reading Prize this year recognized a book bank, a library that puts free books by the side of the road, a portable reading room, a banned book promotion project, and a a nonprofit that gets e-books to the developing world. Presented by the National Book Foundation, awards are up to $2,500 each to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading.
Reading Is the Way Up, a program through City National Bank in Los Angeles, was started in 2002 to address the plight of school libraries and the lack of current and compelling books available to students. To date, the program has placed over 170,000 books into the hands of students. City National has done this through strategic partnerships with Barnes and Noble and Reading Is Fundamental, with the goal of promoting book ownership. In 2005, a literacy grant component was added; more recently, school author visits were added, and each student in attendance gets a signed copy of the book. The program has reached over 100,000 children.
Little Free Library (covered here by PW), which started in Hudson, Wis. with one little box labeled "Free Books," has now grown to over 6,000 little libraries in over 42 countries, including Japan, Uganda, Ghana, and Brazil. The first box in founder Todd Bol's front yard was modeled after a one-room schoolhouse in memorial of Bol's mother, a teacher who loved to read.The mission became clear—to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world. Sense of community trumped everything. Books became the currency of friendship, and constructing the free neighborhood book exchanges themselves emerged as a new American folk craft.
The Uni Project is a portable reading for New York City, made out of lightweight cubes that stack and around which readers can gather. Conceived of and run by Leslie and Sam Davol, the purpose of the Uni is to provide a new kind of amenity for city residents, while fostering a stronger, more prominent culture of reading and learning at street level. The Uni was launched with a crowd-funding campaign and put into service on September 11, 2011. In 2012, operating as a nonprofit, the Davols deployed the Uni 10 times in seven different New York City neighborhoods, at times partnering with the Queens and Brooklyn public libraries. They also shipped a second Uni to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for deployment there by the U.S. Consulate, funded by the U.S. State Department. In 2013, with the support of foundations and a growing list of contributors, the project will more than double the number of NYC deployments.
The Uprise Books Project (covered here by PW) was founded in 2011 with the simple mission: to encourage underprivileged teens to read by providing them with new banned and challenged books. Uprise believes that the "forbidden fruit" angle of banned and challenged literature could provide the motivation for getting teens to read. Launched through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Uprise is delivering hundreds of banned books to kids out of its Vancouver base.
Worldreader (covered here by PW) is a U.S. and European nonprofit created in 2010 by David Risher (former Amazon.com executive) and Colin McElwee (former ESADE Business School’s marketing director) whose mission is to make digital books (via e-readers and mobile phones) available to children and their families in the developing world. The tally so far: over 480,000 e-books, impacting nearly 10,000 children and families in six sub-Saharan African countries. Worldreader's international publishing partners make their books available at no cost, exposing children and families everywhere to some of the best-known literature in the world.
More information on the winners and their projects can be found here.