Industry Notes: ‘Teach This Poem’ Wins National Book Foundation’s Innovations Prize

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A program that provides more than 27,000 educators with weekly poetry and teaching materials to support it has won the 2018 Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation.

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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘To Celebrate and Uplift Poetry’
The National Book Foundation on Thursday (May 10) has announced that the Academy of American Poets and its “Teach This Poem” project has won the foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize for this year.

The award gives US$10,000 to an individual or organization with an innovative project that “creates and sustains a lifelong love of reading” in that person or organization’s service community. The program, with sponsorship from the Levenger Foundation, names four honorable mentions as well as an annual winner. Those honorable mentions, each with a $1,000 award, this year go to:

  • Appalachian Prison Book Project, which serves six states’ incarcerated readers
  • Friends of the Homer (Alaska) Library, which includes outreach to Old Russian Believer families
  • Jewish Women International’s National Library Initiative, which installs children’s libraries in domestic violence shelters
  • Words Without Borders Campus, a free site of English translations of international texts

Jennifer Benka

In a prepared statement, the winning Academy of American Poets’ executive director, Jennifer Benka, is quoted, saying that Teach This Poem is “a free weekly series which assists teachers of all subjects in encouraging their students, and the next generation, to become regular readers of poems.

“We know that engaging with poetry helps young people hone creative thinking, take imaginative leaps, and learn to ask questions not just of a text, but of their world.”

The Teach This Poem program was chosen for the foundation’s Innovations in Reading honor from 138 applications, and has more than 27,000 subscribing teachers.

Each week, the program sends those teachers a poem accompanied by teaching materials that might include artwork, maps, and photos. Timeliness of topic is considered in the choices of poems for the program, and the classroom activities are devised “to provide cross-disciplinary strategies for incorporating poetry into daily school work,” according to media materials from the National Book Foundation.

The series is curated by the academy’s Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, and was inspired, the organization says, by its Poem-a-Day series of syndicated

David Steinberger

Speaking for the foundation, board chairman David Steinberger is quoted, saying, “Poetry is a unique and vital part of the literary landscape, which is why we honor the form yearly at the National Book Awards.

“Poetry provides distinct opportunities to influence the way we see and think about our world, and the thoughtful, inventive work the Academy of American Poets is doing to celebrate and uplift poetry is nothing short of essential.”

Past winners of the Innovations in Reading Prize include Little Free Library, Next Chapter Book Club, and, most recently, Barbershop Books.

The winner of the Innovations in Reading Prize is celebrated each year at the Why Reading Matters conference. That conference this year is scheduled for June 7 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and registration is now open.

In other National Book Foundation business, submissions for the 2018 National Book Awards close on May 16, with nominated books due by June 29. More details are here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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