Library of Congress Literacy Awards

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. When can I submit an application?
    The application period is from January 15, 2021 to March 5, 2021. All applications must be submitted by midnight, March 5, 2021 (EDT).

  2. When will I know if my application was successful?
    Award winners will be contacted in the summer.

  3. When are the winners announced?
    Award winners and successful practices honorees will be publicly announced in late summer.

  4. Prize Categories

  5. How many prize categories can I apply in?
    Each organization may apply in only one category each year.

  6. Which prize category should I apply in?
    It depends on where your organization is based and where you do your work. Please see prize descriptions for specifics.

  7. My organization is based in the United States, but works internationally; can we apply for the International Prize?
    Yes. Organizations based in the United States that work internationally may apply for the International Prize.

  8. Letters of Reference

  9. What should a letter of reference contain?
    The letter should include a short description of how the writer knows the organization and a brief statement about why he or she feels that it should be considered for an award. Letters that specifically address the difference the organization makes and its unique value to the promotion of literacy are highly encouraged. Reference letters must be signed.

  10. How long should they be?
    There is no word count for the references, but most are 1,000 words or less.

  11. Who should write the letters of reference?
    Letters should come from someone outside of the nominated organization who knows the program and can clearly articulate why the organization’s work should be considered for the award. This might include partners, policy advisers, academics, government officials, beneficiaries or anyone else who is familiar with the organization’s work.

  12. To whom should the letters be addressed?
    The letters can be addressed to the Literacy Awards Advisory Board as follows:

    “Dear Literacy Awards Advisory Board,”

  13. Essay

  14. What information should the essay contain?
    The essay should summarize why the organization should be considered for the prize, focusing on how it meets the selection criteria (innovation, sustainability, replicability, measurable results and evidence-based practice). The most important information to include in the essay is a description of what the organization does and whom it serves. Given the size limitation of the essay, nominators are encouraged to have their text focus on the value of the work the organization provides and the difference that work makes in increasing literacy and/or public awareness of the need for literacy.

  15. How much information about context/organizational history should be included in the essay?
    A brief statement about the organizational history is useful, which might include the length of time the program has been active and any important milestones that are relevant to the organization’s current work. Again, a reference to website content may be appropriate to provide in-depth history or background.

  16. How do I add links to the essay to direct readers to additional information?
    Write out the full URL directly in the text of the essay. Links embedded in the text will not be accessible to those evaluating the application.

  17. My essay is more than 750 words, is that acceptable?
    No. Essays longer than 750 words will be disqualified.

  18. Do URLs add to the word count?
    Yes. Each URL counts as one word.

  19. Reapplying

  20. My organization applied previously and received recognition. May we reapply?
    If you are a former recipient of the David M. Rubenstein Prize you are not eligible to apply again.  Organizations that have been recognized previously as a Successful Practices Honoree, American or International Prize recipient may apply again but your organization will only be considered if the project is different than the one that received the recognition previously. Be sure to indicate in your essay what is new and different.

  21. How do I reapply?
    If you have applied for an award in the past, you must reapply to be considered for this year. To apply, fill out a new application form, update or rewrite your essay to reflect any changes or new achievements since the prior application and attach your letters of reference. Specifically, any applications (and their supporting material) from prior years are not considered in the current year application process.

  22. Do I have to submit different letters of reference?
    We encourage organizations to obtain current letters of reference that speak to the organization’s current application. If the letters of reference from the past are being used, they must be resubmitted with the new application. All prior year’s applications and supporting materials are not considered in the current year’s application process.

  23. My organization applied previously and received recognition for our implementation of a successful practice; may we apply again?
    Yes. We encourage organizations that have previously applied to the Literacy Awards program and not won one of the three prizes to submit their applications again each year.

  24. Successful Practices Honorees

  25. What does it mean to be a successful practices honoree?
    Each year up to 15 organizations that apply in the three major prize categories are recognized for their successful implementation of a specific literacy practice and receive a $5,000 award. Short profiles of the honorees are included in the annual Library of Congress Literacy Awards publication along with descriptions of the prize winners.

  26. How are the honorees selected?
    The successful practices honorees are selected based on the overall evaluation of their application and their successful implementation of a specific literacy practice.

  27. Do I need to apply separately to be considered for “successful practices” recognition?
    No. Honorees are chosen from all three prize categories.

  28. Miscellaneous

  29. Who is eligible to apply for the literacy awards?
    Any organization or program that does not operate on a for-profit basis is eligible to apply. We accept applications for projects created or sponsored by local, regional or national governments. We do not accept nominations for individuals.

  30. Can I submit my application in a language other than English?
    At this time we are only able to evaluate materials submitted in English. If you wish to use letters of reference that are written in another language, please provide an English translation as well.

  31. Can I request feedback on my application if it is not successful?
    Due to limited personnel resources, feedback on unsuccessful applications will not be provided.

  32. I have more questions. Whom should I contact?
    Email questions to [email protected] or call 1-202-707-0596.