Graphic novelist Stephan Pastis, author of the “Timmy Failure” series, presents a program in the Center for the Book’s Young Readers Center
Annual Report | Staff | News Releases | Newsletters

(October 1, 2012- September 30, 2013)

Center for the Book Fiscal 2013 Annual Report

The Center for the Book achieved several notable milestones during fiscal 2013, including administering the first-ever Library of Congress Literacy Awards, integrating the Poetry and Literature Center into the Center for the Book, sponsoring a book event with Jill Biden, exercising oversight in the selection of a new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and, for the 13th time, inviting and organizing the authors program for the National Book Festival.

As it has since its founding through Public Law 95-129 in 1977, the center relies on private funding to support all its activities; only its six permanent staff positions (four in the Center for the Book and one each in the Poetry and Literature Center and Young Readers Center) are paid through appropriated funds.

Library of Congress Literacy Awards

The Center for the Book assumed responsibility for administering the newly announced (December 6, 2012) Library of Congress Literacy Awards, originated and sponsored by David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, philanthropist and major donor to the Library of Congress. On January 24, 2013, a call for applications was announced for the three prizes:

  • The David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000), for a groundbreaking or sustained record of advancement of literacy by any individual or entity worldwide
  • The American Prize ($50,000), for a project developed and implemented successfully during the past decade for combating illiteracy and/or aliteracy
  • The International Prize ($50,000), for the work of an individual, nation, or nongovernmental organization working in a specific country or region

The initial deadline of April 15 was later extended to April 30. The total number of applicants was 187, with submissions coming from 28 states and 22 nations.

In order to evaluate the applications, the Center for the Book assembled a notable advisory board of experts in the field of literacy:

Laura Bush, founder of the Texas Book Festival in 1995 and co-founder with Librarian of Congress James H. Billington of the Library of Congress National Book Festival in 2001, is the honorary chair of the advisory board. The former first lady is a librarian as well as a literacy and reading advocate who focused much of her attention on education while she was in the White House.

Following are the additional members of the 21-member advisory board of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards:

Laura L. Bailet
Executive Director, Nemours BrightStart!
Assistant Professor, Mayo College of Medicine

David Baldacci
No. 1 New York Times best-selling author of books for adults and children
2011 inductee, International Crime Writing Hall of Fame
2012 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award
Founder (with wife Michelle), Wish You Well Foundation for family and adult literacy
Reading and literacy advocate

Cynthia Hearn Dorfman
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
Office of Communications and Outreach
U.S. Department of Education

Lesley S.J. Farmer
Professor, College of Education, California State University
Standing Committee on Literacy and Reading, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)

Susan Hildreth
Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Former City Librarian of San Francisco Public Library and Seattle Public Library and California State Librarian

Caroline Kennedy
Honorary Chair, 2013 National Library Week
Honorary Director, Fund for Public Schools of New York City

Steven Koltai
Managing Director, Koltai & Company LLC
Former Chairman, Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles

Karen Lotz
President and Publisher, Candlewick Press
Group Managing Director, Walker Books Limited

Pamela A. Mason
Director, Language and Literacy Program
Jeanne Chall Reading Lab, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Elaine Ng
Chief Executive Officer, National Library Board of Singapore

James Patterson
No. 1 New York Times best-selling author for adults and children
Children’s Choice Author of the Year Award Winner (2010)
Founder,, the winner of the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize 2009
Founding partner, Children’s Reading Fund (UK)
Reading and literacy advocate

Karen M. Ristau
Former President, National Catholic Educational Association

Lynda Bird Johnson Robb
Reading Is Fundamental Inc.: founding member, former chair and board of directors (1968-2013)
President, The National Home Library Foundation

Richard Robinson
CEO/President/Chairman, Scholastic Inc.

Loriene Roy
Professor, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin
Former Chair, International Relations Round Table, American Library Association

Carol Seiler, Commissioner
Coordinator for Strategic Mission Planning
The Salvation Army, USA Central Territory

Benita Somerfield
Former Executive Director, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy (1989-2012)
Member, Governing Board, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Literacy Decade (2002-2012)

Michael Trucano
Senior Specialist in educational policy and information and communications technology
Human Development Network, The World Bank

Robert Wedgeworth
Former President, ProLiteracy Worldwide
Former President, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)

Maryanne Wolf
Professor of Child Development
Center for Reading and Language Research, Tufts University
Author, “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain”

The advisory board narrowed the 187 applications to 26 semifinalists, and Dr. Billington made the final selection. The winners were announced on September 23 during the National Book Festival on the National Mall.

The winners are:

  • David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000): Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read encourages early-childhood literacy by capitalizing on the relationship between parents and their children’s pediatricians. By integrating basic literacy awareness into regular office visits, children are exposed to books and reading at the earliest age, well before they start school. Free books are distributed during the visit as well. Reach Out and Read achieves sustainability because it has integrated literacy education into a widely practiced experience (the well-baby visit).

  • The American Prize ($50,000): 826 National

826 National uses unique storefront offices in eight cities nationwide as bases for addressing community problems of both literacy and aliteracy. One-on-one tutoring for at-risk K-12 students is offered along with a range of free core programs, including storytelling, bookmaking, in-school writing workshops and publishing projects.

  • The International Prize ($50,000): PlanetRead

PlanetRead in India is an innovative program that reinforces literacy skills, primarily through subtitles for popular musical television programming. SLS (Same Language Subtitling) was developed in India based on solid research. It is simple to implement and easy to replicate, reaching 200 million low-literacy TV viewers in India. SLS is notable as a highly motivational approach for getting low-literacy adults to read, particularly where access to books is difficult.

A formal awards program in the Coolidge Auditorium was held (during fiscal 2014) on November 4 with the three winners and the authors (and Literacy Awards board members) David Baldacci and James Patterson. The following day, the advisory board held a meeting to discuss enhancements to the program for 2014.

A publication, “Best Practices,” was published to highlight areas where the 26 semifinalists excelled. The publication will serve as a guide to other individuals and organizations working in literacy.

Poetry and Literature Center

The Poetry and Literature Center became part of the Center for the Book in February 2013. The transfer enables the two offices to work more closely on cooperative programs and other initiatives.

A major collaborative effort of the two offices was instituting and managing the new Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The winner was Don De Lillo, the National Book Award-winning novelist. He received his prize on September 21, during the National Book Festival.

This new prize was inspired by a prior award the Library made for lifetime achievement in the writing of fiction - presented to Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk in 2008. Beginning in 2009, the Library granted the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction in connection with the National Book Festival: John Grisham (2009), Isabel Allende (2010), Toni Morrison (2011) and Philip Roth (2012) are the recipients of this award.

Jill Biden at the Library of Congress

The Center for the Book initiated an offshoot of its popular long-running book series, Books & Beyond, with Jill Biden as the speaker in the new “Books & Beyond for Young People” series. Biden read her book, “Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops,” on June 13 in the Coolidge Auditorium for a group of more than 400 mostly military family members. She visited the Young Readers Center following her presentation.

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Walter Dean Myers is in the second year of a two-year term. He became National Ambassador on Jan. 10, 2012. Myers’s platform is “Reading is not optional.”

The Librarian of Congress names the National Ambassador for a two-year term, based on recommendations from a selection committee representing many segments of the book community. The selection criteria include the candidate’s contribution to young people’s literature and ability to relate to children. The position was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.

The Center for the Book, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader (the CBC foundation), are the sponsors of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature initiative ( The CBC is one of the Center for the Book’s more than 80 reading promotion partners. Financial support for the National Ambassador program is provided by Penguin Young Readers Group, Scholastic Inc., HarperCollins Children’s Books, Random House Children’s Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan Publishers, Holiday House, Charlesbridge, National Geographic Children’s Books, Candlewick Press and Marshall Cavendish Publishers.

In October the Center for the Book, together with the Children’s Book Council, facilitated the recommendation to Dr. Billington of a new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature . The ambassador for the 2014-15 term is Kate De Camillo, who won the Newbery Medal for her 2003 novel, “Tale of Despereaux.”

National Book Festival

  • As it has done since 2001, the Center for the Book played a major role in presentation of the 2012 National book Festival, including:
  • Inviting and scheduling all authors and illustrators for a two-day festival of more than 120 presenters
  • Drafting of almost all text and oversight of NBF website
  • Drafting of almost all text and oversight of NBF printed program
  • Organization of Pavilion of the States – the National Book Festival’s most popular pavilion
  • Overall planning of the festival
  • From July 1 through the end of September, Center for the Book staff members spent either the vast majority or a substantial portion of their time carrying out National Book Festival responsibilities

Books & Beyond Author Series

In fiscal 2013, the Center for the Book sponsored 23 programs, most with other Library divisions. This popular author series shines a positive spotlight on the Library’s extraordinary collections and reference staff, as nearly all Books & Beyond programs feature authors whose books are based on their research at the Library. These authors enthusiastically make note of the rich resources of the Library and its staff as part of their presentations – all of which are filmed for later webcasting. These webcasts, now numbering more than 250, exponentially expand the reach of this author series.

The Young Readers Center hosted two authors, Rosalind Wiseman and Cynthia Levinson, in the new Books and Beyond for Young People series.

Young Readers Center

The Young Readers Center continued its increase in year-to-year visitors; in fiscal 2013, 35,966 visited, compared to 33,362 in 2012 --an 8 percent increase.

The appointment of a new Young Readers Center head in April 2013 resulted in a reframing of the center’s activities, tying them more closely to the programs of the Library as a whole. Major activities of the Young Readers Center in fiscal 2013 included:

  • Weekly story time events for toddlers, supplemented by formal training for potential storytellers
  • More than 20 book displays that were related either to Library main exhibits, events, holidays or other initiatives
  • Children’s bookmark/biblioghaphies compiled for use by visitors to three Library of Congress exhibitions: The Civil War in America, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Veterans Day
  • An author’s program and table display featuring free bookmarks in the Library of Congress Pavilion at the National Book Festival
  • Kids Euro Festival: The Young Readers Center partnered with local embassies programs to host two programs in the center for the fifth annual Kids Euro Festival
  • Africa Access: The Young Readers Center hosted two programs featuring the winners of the Children’s Africana Book Awards.

Poetry and Literature Center

  • Instituted a six-location series with the PBS NewsHour in which the Poet Laureate travels to local “poetry sites” for various events, which are then broadcast during the NewsHour
  • Planned and executed the Poet Laureate’s final program of the season at the Library
  • Launched Poetry of American Identity and Poetry of American History projects in which recordings of and essays by poets were conducted and made available online
  • Continued its series of literary birthday celebrations
  • Continued its series of programs with poets and writers, including Conversations with African Poets and Writers
  • Coordinated an interview by the Librarian of Congress of Herman Wouk, the winner of the Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction

Romance Writers Project

The Center for the Book began planning for the Romance Writers Conference at the Library of Congress, to be held in February 2015.

  • This project will be held in cooperation with the Romance Writers of America and the George Mason Center for History and New Media.
  • A documentary on the romance fiction genre, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is being produced and will screen during the event Website

Major enhancements to the Center for the Book’s popular website include:

  • Launch of an interactive app of “Aesop’s Fables,” drawn from a historic illustrated version in the Library’s collections
  • Beginning of an integration of content from the Poetry and Literature Center website
  • A re-launch of the highly successful serialized story written exclusively for the site, called “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.”
  • Continued to add Webcasts from the Center for the Book’s Books & Beyond series as well as from the National Book Festival

The site was visited by 1,350,224 users and had 2,019,992 page views during the fiscal year.

Reading Promotion Partners/State Centers for the Book

The annual “idea exchange” for national reading promotion partners took place on March 4-5. More than 40 organizations participated. Representatives of 35 states participated in the May 6-7 annual “idea exchange” for affiliated State Centers for the Book. Every three years, a State Center must apply to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress to renew its status.

Ten affiliated Centers for the Book were renewed in fiscal 2013. They are: Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Vermont and West Virginia.

Letters About Literature

The Letters About Literature reading-writing program received more than 50,000 entries from students in grades 4-10. This contest asks students to write a letter to an author (living or dead) whose work changed their lives. National and National Honor winners are recognized each year.

The Center for the Book funded the contest because the longtime sponsor declined to continue support. (A new sponsor was being solicited.) The contest was also limited to grades 4-10 (instead of 4-12, as in prior years). Letters About Literature will return to grades 4-12 in the next contest cycle.

River of Words

The Center for the Book also co-sponsors River of Words, an environmental poetry and art contest for students ages 5 through 19. The Center has co-sponsored this program since its inception in 1995. Lat year, the program found a new home (and funding sponsor) at St. Mary’s College Center for Environmental Literacy in Moraga, Calif.(east of San Francisco).

Awards Presentations

National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

The Center hosted its fourth awards ceremony for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest in conjunction with the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, with major support from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. Established in 2005 by Fine Books & Collections magazine to recognize outstanding book collecting efforts by college and university students, the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest aims to encourage young collectors to become accomplished bibliophiles. The magazine conducted the annual competition program before turning over leadership to the new collaboration of institutional partners.

Americas Award

The Center for the Book co-sponsored with the Hispanic Division the Americas Award of the Consortium of Latin American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The award recognizes outstanding U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore or selected nonfiction for children and young adults published in the previous year. The winning works must “authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean or Latinos in the United States.”