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Where Literacy Lives (and Doesn’t)

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

The number of organizations dedicated to eradicating illiteracy, raising time spent reading and increasing reading proficiency is legion because the problems are legion. These groups can be found throughout the world, including the United States, which, despite its immense wealth, is not immune to reading deficiencies among its people.

With that in mind, David M. Rubenstein established the Library of Congress Literacy Awards in 2013. Rubenstein is co-founder of The Carlyle Group and the sponsor of these awards, as well as the primary donor to the Library’s National Book Festival.

Last year, three longtime organizations won awards totaling $250,000 to enable them to continue the exemplary work they are doing to promote reading.

Reach Out and Read won the Rubenstein Prize of $150,000 in recognition of its successful program to enlist pediatricians in encouraging reading by offering free books and basic literacy awareness advice to parents as part of their children’s visits.

The American Prize of $50,000 went to 826 National, which has opened “literacy stores” in eight U.S. cities to address community reading problems.

PlanetRead in India received the $50,000 International Prize for its innovative program of adding subtitles to musical television programs in India, where access to TV is more widespread than access to books.

Award applications last year came from 187 organizations based in 28 U.S. states and 21 nations. The “Best Practices” of 26 of these groups are available in a publication whose intent is to encourage other organizations to emulate these practices.

The 2014 Literacy Awards cycle is about to close, but there is still time to submit an application. Just follow the simple instructions, which require a 750-word essay and two letters of recommendation. Applications are due by midnight March 31, 2014, Eastern Daylight Time.

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