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Youth Literacy Organizations Win Library of Congress Awards

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UPDATE: An earlier version of this post identified Earl Martin Phalen as Executive Director of Reach Out and Read. Mr. Phalen was the organization's CEO; the current Executive Director is Anne-Marie Fitzgerald.

Reach Out and Read and 826 National, two nonprofits focused on improving youth literacy, are the inaugural winners of two Library of Congress literacy prizes, awarded at the National Book Festival this past weekend in Washington, D.C. The David M. Rubenstein Prize and the American Literacy Prize were launched at the first International Summit of the Book, held in late 2012.

Reach Out and Read, a Boston-based organization, focuses on improving early childhood literacy by involving parents and pediatricians in the processes of learning to read and access to books. The group is the first winner of the $150,000 David M. Rubenstein Prize. Reach Out and Read's then-CEO, Earl Martin Phalen, spoke with Education Week blog Early Years in 2011 about the organization's work, including how it settled upon doctors' offices as a setting for literacy development.

826 National, a youth literacy nonprofit founded by Nínive Calegari and writer Dave Eggers, has won the American Literacy Prize, a $50,000 award. 826, with networks and physical offices in major cities like Boston, San Francisco, and New York, offers in- and after-school tutoring programs, field trips, one-time creative writing workshops, and publishing opportunities for young people in schools with high populations of at-risk students. Each chapter recruits volunteers to help operate its various programs, and many also operate storefronts. The 826 Young Authors' Book Project is one of the organization's better-known campaigns; BookMarks featured several 826DC publications earlier this year in a look at published student writing.

The two prizes were first introduced last year at a summit all about improving access to reading, and this year's awardees were revealed at a festival devoted to books. While physical books are central to the work of each fêted organization, it's possible to imagine future winners emerging from digital writing and other literacy communities we follow closely here at BookMarks.

Follow @awickner on Twitter for more K-12 books, libraries, and literacy news.

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