2016 Innovations in Reading Prize Winners Make World Better One Book at a Time

Congratulations are in order.

On Monday, the National Book Foundation announced the winner and honorable mentions of the 2016 Innovations in Reading Prize.

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Founded in 2009, the Innovations in Reading Prize is an annual award that honors social advocates who are making an impact on the world though literature. Past winners have included Reach Incorporated, a reading mentorship program designed to increase literacy in kids and teens, and Chicago Books to Women in Prison, which provides free books to women’s prisons.

And now the results for 2016 are in.

This year, the winner of the Innovations in Reading Prize is Next Chapter Book Club, a community-based reading program for adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

​”The Next Chapter Book Club truly fits our understanding of literary activism and what that kind of movement can do,” says Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “They’re not just using a book club as a way to build literacy skills, but they’re establishing and strengthening relationships in the real world through a shared love of books.

When any community is dismissed, when we lose a voice or an audience, we all suffer for it.​”When any community is dismissed, when we lose a voice or an audience, we all suffer for it. Next Chapters Book Club is using literature as a way to bring people with intellectual disabilities into a conversation we should all be having.”

Along with prestige, the award also comes with a $10,000 prize, sponsored by the Levenger Foundation. For Next Chapter Book Club, that means the opportunity to reach more readers in new places.

“We have people from organizations as far away as Australia and England telling us they want to be trained to start a Next Chapter Book Club,” says Susan M Berg, Executive Director of Next Chapter Book Club. “Thanks to the Innovations in Reading Prize, those big oceans and timezones separating us from them will no longer prevent any community on earth from starting a club.”

In addition to awarding Next Chapter Book Club, the National Book Foundation also named several organizations as honorable mentions — including The Harry Potter Alliance, LGBT Books to Prisoners, Limitless Libraries, and Traveling Stories. 

“The Innovations in Reading Prize is our way of identifying literary activists who share this vision of what reading can do, who are working alongside us in communities across the country, and who are helping people access literature and all the life-changing benefits it brings,” says Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “This prize helps us to help those who are building readers across the country.”

You can learn more about Next Chapter Book Club and the honorable mentions below.

Winner: Next Chapter Book Club

Next Chapter Book Club is a a book club for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities, designed to provide opportunities for lifelong learning, social connections, and community to those who might not have access to it. Currently, NCBC has over 300 sites in the US, Canada, and Europe. 

“This simple premise – a regular social connection with friends – is something that is often elusive for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” says Berg. “That was the inspiration behind [founder] Dr. Fish launching Next Chapter Book Club. He wanted people with disabilities to know the pleasure of regularly hanging out with friends and doing something fun together after they leave a school setting.”

Honorable Mentions:

The Harry Potter Alliance

​The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit organization that uses stories like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games to inspire readers to be community activists. Since the organization was founded in 2005, HPA has empowered millions of fans and readers to work for equality, humans and literacy. Past achievements include raising over $123,000 for Partners In Health and sending five cargo planes of life-saving supplies to Haiti, and donating of over 250,000 books across the world through its Accio Books campaign. 

LGBT Books to Prisoners

​LGBT Books To Prisoners is a donation-funded all-volunteer collective that sends free books and literature to incarcerated people who identify as LGBTQ. The goal is to provide reading material to LGBTQ people in prison to help them explore and develop their self ­identities without fear of judgment. Since its founding in 2006, LGBT Books To Prisoners has mailed books to over 5,500 people, including over 3,000 packages of books in 2015.

Limitless Libraries

​Limitless Libraries is a program that connects Nashville schools with the Nashville Public Library to give institutions greater access to books. The program delivers books to individual schools with the goal of helping students become strong readers, successful learners and curious thinkers.

Traveling Stories

​Traveling Stories is a pop-up library designed to develop stronger literacy and money management skills in children in low-income neighborhoods. To achieve this, the organization sets up StoryTents at farmers markets where children can read with volunteers, their parents or other children. For every book a kid reads, they earn a book buck which can be used to redeem prizes. Traveling Stories’ mission is to give kids the skills to help them overcome poverty in their communities.

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