Literacy Awards: Thomas Jefferson Would Have Approved

Library of Congress Literacy Awards(The following is a guest post by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.)

Thomas Jefferson, the Library of Congress’s spiritual founder, wrote about the pursuit of happiness.

“I like to think that literacy is fundamental to that pursuit. So many doors are closed to those who cannot read. Everyone in this world has a right to happiness and with that comes the right to read.” So said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden during a ceremony last fall honoring the 2016 Library of Congress Literacy Awards winners and best practices honorees.

Many of us take for granted being able to read instructions on filling out a job application, on reading a website or even something as simple as reading a street sign. Imagine how terrifying it is for those who cannot read to even think about applying for a job.

It’s no surprise that those who cannot read earn significantly less than those who can and that many of these people are living in poverty.

During the Library of Congress National Book Festival gala program in September, the Library shared a short film highlighting some alarming statistics about literacy:

  • 757 million adults cannot read or write a simple sentence, and two-thirds of them are women
  • In the United States one in six adults reads at a basic or below-basic , meaning they cannot read anything more complex than a TV Guide
  • Worldwide, 61 million elementary-age children are not in school, and in the United States, 34 percent of children entering kindergarten lack the basic language skills needed to learn to read
  • Low literacy levels cost the united states $225 billion each year and cost the global economy $1.19 trillion annually

David M. Rubenstein, the philanthropist who sponsors the awards, is himself a voracious reader, and he has stated many times publicly that reading has been key to his success in life.

If you work for a literacy organization or know someone who does, you are encouraged to apply yourself or on behalf of another literacy group. A quarter-million dollars will be awarded this fall to three worthy organizations. For more information, visit to

World War I: From Red Glare to Debonair

(The following post is by Jennifer Gavin, senior public affairs specialist at the Library of Congress.) With its more than 90-year history, most Americans are aware of the military-based newspaper “The Stars and Stripes.” But many don’t know that it came into existence as a morale-builder after Americans surged into France during World War I […]

Library in the News: December 2016 Edition

Happy New Year! Let’s look back on some of the Library’s headlines in December. Topping the news was the announcement of the new selections to the National Film Registry. Outlets really picked up on the heavy 80s influence of the list. “It’s loaded with millennials,” said Christie D’Zurilla of The Los Angeles Times. “Ten of […]

Library in the News: November 2016 Edition

Smokey Robinson made headlines as the Library celebrated his work and career during the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song celebration concert. “Amid multiple standing ovations from an audience filled with political dignitaries at DAR Constitution Hall, the Motown star reflected on his humble Detroit roots as he accepted the prestigious Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” […]

New Online: Presidents, Teachers & More Website Updates

(The following is a guest post by William Kellum, manager in the Library’s Web Services Division.)  Presidential Collections With the next presidential inauguration quickly approaching, we’ve updated a popular presentation from our old American Memory site on U.S. presidential inaugurations: “I Do Solemnly Swear…” A Resource Guide highlights items from the Library’s collections such as […]

Gwen Ifill, a History-Tracker and a HistoryMaker

Those who appreciate high-quality broadcast news were saddened today to learn of the passing of longtime PBS NewsHour co-host and Washington Week moderator Gwen Ifill. The former New York Times, Washington Post and NBC News political, congressional and White House reporter, 61, had been under treatment for cancer. She and her NewsHour co-host Judy Woodruff […]

Election Day Collection Coverage

Today, American citizens gather en masse to exercise their right to vote for the nation’s next president. This particular election will certainly go down in the history books as an interesting one. However, American presidential election history is full of choice moments. This election year hasn’t been the first to see name-calling and insults. In […]

Library in the News: October 2016 Edition

The month of October continued to see the arrival of Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in the news. Featured on the cover of Library Journal, Hayden sat down with the magazine to outline her vision for the Library. Her underlying agenda, noted reporter Meredith Schwartz, is to “make LC the library of the American people, […]

Page from the Past: War of the Worlds

(The following was written by Audrey Fischer for the July/August 2016 Library of Congress Magazine, LCM.) The story is legendary in the annals of broadcasting history. On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 30, 1938, a young Orson Welles directed and narrated a radio adaption of H.G. Wells’ novel, “The War of the Worlds” for his […]