Renowned Reader Supports New Literacy Awards As Library of Congress Hosts International Summit of the Book

$1.5 Million Gift from David Rubenstein Will Support Literacy Nationally, Internationally

The Library of Congress today opened the first International Summit of the Book, a gathering of leaders in academia, libraries, culture and technology to discuss the powerful and crucial form of information transmittal. As the conference opened, attendee and longtime friend of reading David Rubenstein announced he is contributing $1.5 million to fund three new Library of Congress annual literacy awards over five years.

“Reading has been a powerful force in my life and is a major contributor to my success,” said Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group and major donor to the Library of Congress, including its annual National Book Festival. “The public library my parents urged me to investigate as a child turned into a limitless source of information and amazement. For me, it opened a door to the universe.

“Considering that the Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, it’s an apt place to launch this series of literacy awards.”

The trio of annual awards will include the David M. Rubenstein Prize for a groundbreaking contribution to the sustained advancement of literacy by any individual or entity worldwide; the American Prize, honoring a project developed and deployed in the United States during the preceding decade with special emphasis on combating aliteracy; and the International Prize, which would honor the outstanding work of an individual, a nation or a non-governmental organization (NGO) working in a specific country or region.

“The Library of Congress joins the nation and the world in gratitude for this latest expression of David Rubenstein’s support for the life of the mind,” said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.

“David has long supported the popular National Book Festival, has made it possible for us to display the historic Abel Buell map of America and has been generous with the Library and the American people in many other ways,” Dr. Billington said. “This new set of awards will invigorate those who understand the value of literacy to critical thinking and how essential it is to living and good government.”

The literacy awards program will be managed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Final selection of prize winners will be made by the Librarian of Congress, who will solicit recommendations from literacy experts on a National Advisory Board to be established for the program. Criteria for the prizes include innovation, replicability, sustainability, measurable impact and demonstration of reliance on existing professional literature and applied practice.

The first winners will be announced in 2013 at the second annual International Summit of the Book, which will be held in Singapore on August 16, 2013.

The literacy awards announcement was a rousing kickoff for the first-ever summit, where a panoply of experts in books, literacy and publishing met to discuss the value of books and the challenges faced by cultures that rely on this long form of information transmittal.

“Books in their many forms are nothing short of imperative to an informed democracy,” Billington said. “They key is its in-depth format: this presentation of a concept or story is the key to converting mere information into knowledge.”

In addition to Rubenstein and Billington, scheduled speakers at the two-day first International Summit include Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, who was instrumental in conceiving the summit; U.S. Sen.. Jack Reed, Rhode Island; Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria and director of the World Digital Library Executive Council; Elizabeth Eisenstein, historian of early printing; Caroline Brazier, Director of Scholarship and Collections, The British Library; Anton Likhomanov, director general of the National Library of Russia; Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, director of the National Library of Spain; Ramón Mujica Pinilla, director of the Biblioteca Nacional del Peru; and John Kgwale Tsebe, the National Librarian of South Africa.

Also appearing are rare-book experts Michael Suarez of the University of Virginia and Mark Dimunation and Daniel DeSimone of the Library of Congress; Marie Arana, an author, writer-at-large for the Washington Post and senior consultant to the Librarian of Congress; Tom Allen, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers; James Shapiro, vice president of the Authors Guild; Nan Talese, senior vice president and publisher at Doubleday; Geoff Kloske, president and publisher at Riverhead/Penguin books; Karen Lotz, president and publisher at Candlewick Press; and Niko Pfund, president and publisher at Oxford University Press.

The U.S. Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, is slated to speak on Friday, as is author Walter Dean Myers, currently designated by the Librarian of Congress as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

The summit was made possible by the generous support of the Newman’s Own Foundation, which turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. Bob Forrester, president and CEO of the Newman’s Own Foundation, said the late actor and founder of Newman’s Own, Paul Newman, was a lover of books and would have been delighted at his foundation’s sponsorship of the event.

The 2012 International Summit of the Book begins what library leaders envision as an annual global meeting of minds to discuss and promote the book as a crucial format for conveying societies’ scholarship and culture. The event will conclude with a ceremony recognizing The National Library of Singapore, which will host the next summit in Singapore August 16, 2013.

The International Summit on the Book at the Library of Congress is part of a larger “Celebration of the Book” at the Library, which encompasses multiple events and programs, including the National Book Festival and the “Books That Shaped America” exhibition. An online survey soliciting feedback on the “Books That Shaped America” list attracted comments from nearly 9,400 readers.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at

Join the discussion on Twitter @librarycongress #booksummit


Letters About Literature Contest

Call For Student Entries

Library of Congress Announces the 21st Annual Letter Writing Contest for Young Readers

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Letters About Literature (LAL) invites young readers in grades 4 – 10 to enter the 21st Annual LAL letter writing competition.  The contest challenges young readers to write a personal letter to an author explaining how that author’s work somehow changed the readers’ view of their world.

LAL is a national reading and writing promotion program for young readers sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and presented in partnership with participating affiliate state centers for the book including the Alabama Center for the Book.

Students may enter the contest individually or through their school as a class project.  The 2013 entry guidelines and entry coupons may be found on the Alabama Center for the Book’s website: . Submission deadline is postmark January 11, 2013.

Teachers, librarians, and parents can download free teaching materials, including lesson plans, assessment checklists, and student writing samples by visiting the LAL website:

LAL awards prizes on both state and national level in three competition levels: Level 1 for children in grades 4 – 6; Level 2 for children in grades 7 – 8; and Level 3 for children in grades 9 – 10.

The Alabama Center for the Book will announce the state winners in April 2013.  All semi-finalists, their families, and teachers will be invited to the Alabama Letters About Literature awards ceremony and reception to be held at The University of Alabama in the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library.  The three first place winners’ letters will be submitted for national judging.

National winners will receive a cash award of $1,000 and will be announced in May 2013.

For additional information, contact Donna Adcock, Alabama Center for the Book, 205-348-1416, .

The Alabama Center for the Book is the Alabama Affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book and is housed in the University of Alabama Libraries at the University of Alabama.

2013 Entry Guideline PDF

What’s New

UA Festival Brings Together Poets, Student Writers for Readings

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than two dozen poets will read from their work during the Slash Pine Press’s fourth annual festival Friday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 13, in venues at The University of Alabama and in downtown Tuscaloosa.

The events are free and open to the public.

Among the poets reading at the festival are Ethan Saul Bull, author of “In the Hour and a Bedroom Later” (Slash Pine Press, 2012); William Burke, author of “The World is Full of Peasants” (Slash Pine, 2011); and Cindy St. John, author of “Be the Heat” (Slash Pine, 2011).

Also featured are Dr. Mark Yakich, associate professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans; and Carol Lynne Knight, co-director of Anhinga Press.

Invited faculty poets are Carolyn Hembree instructor at the University of New Orleans; Bryn Chancellor, assistant professor of English at the University of Montevallo; Dr. Randy Blythe of the University of Alabama-Birmingham; Dr. Norman Golar, assistant professor at Stillman College; and Ashley McWaters, instructor of English and coordinator of undergraduate creative writing at UA.

Also featured are 25 undergraduate creative writers from these institutions.

“The festival mirrors most closely what we do at our press and in our internship program: foster and promote the work of rising writers at all levels, from those who are engaged in undergraduate creative writing programs to those published by nationally significant presses,” said Dr. Patti White, director of Slash Pine Press. “We want to invite everyone in the community to join us as we celebrate the way words bind us together, not only intellectually but in deep and lasting ways that alter the way we see the world.”

The first Slash Pine reading will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, on the lawn in front of Gorgas House and feature poets Summer Upchurch, Alex Munster, Kyle Dennan, Monica Marie Linam, Alexandra Franklin and Riley Patrick.

The second will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at 205 Gorgas Library and feature Carol Lynne Knight, Lindsay Hodgens, JM Gamble, Judah Martin, Debra Logan, Bryn Chancellor, Robert Conditt, Amber Brown and Ethan Saul Bull.

The third will be at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Green Bar, 2350 Fourth St. in Tuscaloosa, and feature Dr. Mark Yakich, Jasmine McElwee, Nadia Barksdale, Evan B. Patton, Ashley McWaters, Laurie Christolear, Dr. Norman Golar, Blake Posey and William Burke.

The fourth will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Mellow Mushroom, 2230 University Blvd. in Tuscaloosa, and feature Cindy St. John, Ethan Taylor, Dr. Randy Blythe, Lauren Howton, Dani Langone, William Gillette and Carolyn Hembree.

For details, go to or contact White at or Joseph Wood at

Founded in 2009, Slash Pine Press publishes chapbooks of poetry and mixed-genre work. Slash Pine Press is housed in UA’s English department, part of The College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

Support for Slash Pine Press comes from the Alabama Writers Forum, the Alabama Center for the Book, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the University of Alabama English department and its creative writing program and UA’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Alabama Center for the Book Visits the National Book Festival September 24-25, 2012

Join us as we celebrate the 12th annual National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington D.C. on Saturday, September 22 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. The Alabama Center along with centers from the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands will be located at the Pavilion of the States.

Author, Hester Bass from Owens Cross Roads, Alabama, will be at the Alabama booth signing autographs and handing out stickers representing her book, The Secret World of Walter Anderson.

Visitors to the Pavilion of the States will be given a map of the United States and are encouraged to complete their map by visiting each booth and collecting stickers or stamped images representing each state.

The Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator, E. B. Lewis, illustrates Bass’s wonderful book about the Mississippi Gulf Coast artist, Walter Anderson.  Together they have created a wonderful tribute to possibly the “most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.” Bass was awarded the Otis Pictus Award For Outstanding Nonfiction for Children presented by the National Council of Teachers of English.

To learn more about Hester Bass visit:

For additional information about the National Book Festival visit:

Letters About Literature Reading-Writing Program Alabama 2012 Winners Announced

State winners in the Letters About Literature, a national reading and writing program, were recognized with a reception and awards ceremony Saturday, April 7, in Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library on the campus of The University of Alabama.

The event was sponsored by the Alabama Center for the Book.

The program asks young people in grades 4 through 12 to write to an author (living or dead) about how his or her book affected their lives.

Children’s author, Kerry Madden, was the guest speaker.  Madden applauded and encouraged the students by sharing her life story and explained how everyone has something to write about.

Six hundred students from across the state of Alabama participated in this year’s contest and wrote to authors as diverse as Jeff Kinney author of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Cabin Fever”; S. E. Hinton author of “The Outsiders”; and Gustave Flaubert author of “Madame Bovary.”

Sixty-four students were selected as state semi-finalists and were invited along with their families and teachers to the awards ceremony.  Each semi-finalist received a certificate.

The top letters in each competition level were announced:  Level 1 (grades 4-6), Level 2 (grades 7-8) and Level 3 (grades 9-12).  First place winners received a $50 Target GiftCard, $100 from the Alabama Center for the Book and a journal.  Second, third and honorable mention winners received cash awards from the Center and journals.

The three first place winners will now advance to the national competition sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, presented in partnership with Target. Winners will be announced later this month.

Two national winners in each competition level will receive a $500 Target GiftCard and will designate a favorite library that he or she wishes to receive a $10,000 grant from Target.

The four national honors recipients from each competition level designate a library to receive a $1,000 Target grant; those students each receive a $50 Target GiftCard.

Madden is the author of the Smoky Mountain Trilogy:  Gentle’s Holler, Louisiana Song and Jessie’s MountainGentle’s Holler received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and was a New York and Chicago Public Library Pick.  Her picture book about Charlie Lucas and Kathryn Tucker Windham, Nothing Fancy About Charlie & Kathryn, will be published next year with her daughter, Lucy, illustrating the text.

The Alabama Center for the Book ( works with many organizations, individuals and agencies to promote reading, literacy, publishing, and other book-related activities. The Alabama Center for the Book is the Alabama Affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book and is housed in the University Libraries at the University of Alabama. The Center is located at 711 Capstone Drive, Tuscaloosa, AL, in the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, room 201.

Target sponsors Letters About Literature as part of its commitment to supporting education and early childhood reading.  Target recognizes the integral role that reading plays in shaping a child’s future, because reading is the foundation for lifelong learning and success.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress ( has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion.  A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally.  The Center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival.  It also oversees the Library’s website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.

Letters About Literature winners 2012



Teacher Cita Smith and speaker Kerry Madden




Letters About Literature crowd





The 2012 Alabama winners included:

Level 1 (Grades 4-6)

First Place                         Caleb Clarke, Spanish Fort Middle School

Second Place                    Hannah Soloff, The Montgomery Academy

Third Place                       Francie Hill, The Montgomery Academy

Honorable Mention      Julia Coccaro, Spanish Fort Middle School

Level 2 (Grades 7-8)

First Place                         Chenna Christoffer, Tuscaloosa Academy

Second Place                     Rupa Palanki, Phillips Preparatory School (individual             entry)

Third Place                        Mario Madrigal, Oxford Middle School

Level 3 (Grades 9-12)

First Place                          Claudia Mitchell, Randolph School

Second Place                    Sara Jane Kachelman, Florence High School

Third Place                       Claire Oldfather, Providence Classical School

The 2012 Alabama semi-finalists included:

Level 1

Shelby Lloyd                    Advent Episcopal School

Sophia Higgs                   Advent Episcopal School

Anthony Minopoli        Berry Middle School

Adnan Reddy                  Berry Middle School

Andrew Gedgoudas      Berry Middle School

Kristen Smith                  Berry Middle School

Tuba Khan                        Berry Middle School

Megan Seidel                    Highlands School

Anna Lisa Goodman      Highlands School

Ada Cohen                         Highlands School

Bisola Adediji                   The Montgomery Academy

Sujin Lee                            The Montgomery Academy

Tara Katz                           The Montgomery Academy

Catherine Updegraff      The Montgomery Academy

Mary Jane McConnell    The Montgomery Academy

Madelyn Clark                   Providence Classical School

Hannah James                  Spanish Fort Middle School

Lana Stringer                     Spanish Fort Middle School

Hunter Langham              Spanish Fort Middle School

Madison Fabber                Spanish Fort Middle School

Level 2

Raleigh Bruce               Advent Episcopal

Ellie Gorman                Advent Episcopal

Tomeka Frieson                        Advent Episcopal

Olivia Minor                 Advent Episcopal

Harper Johnson                        Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet Middle School

Brittney Hudson                       Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet Middle School

Kara Moncrief              Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet Middle School

Zachary Fitzgerald         Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet Middle School

Mary Frances Lembke   Highlands School

Lauren Curry                Oxford Middle School

Aidan Lambrecht          Providence Classical School

Mary Katherine Givhan Providence Classical School

Drew Lindley               Providence Classical School

Addison Harrison         Tuscaloosa Academy

Chelsea Alan                 Tuscaloosa Academy

William Henson                        Tuscaloosa Academy

Level 3

Isabella Janice Roland    individual entry

Gabrielle D’Arcy           Florence High School

Caroline Lentz              Florence High School

Hannah Wright             Florence High School

Teena Patel                   Florence High School

Kaitlin Moon                Pelham High School

Paige Knight                 Pelham High School

Stormy Womack                       Pelham High School

Ashley Brown               Pelham High School

Belle Griffin                 Pelham High School

Emily Rames                Pelham High School

Alexis Lang                   Pelham High School

Joshua Daniels             Providence Classical

Matthew McDavid         Providence Classical

Olivia Miller                 Providence Classical

Savannah Silver             Providence Classical

Faith Buckley                Providence Classical

Elizabeth Cummings     Providence Classical

National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month,  the Alabama Center for the Book along with University of Alabama Libraries and the Alabama Writers’ Forum hosted a poetry reading April 3 in Gorgas Library.  Returning to their creative roots, two Master of Fine Arts graduates from the University of Alabama, Jeanie Thompson and Abraham Smith read their poetry to a large audience of close to 100 students, faculty, staff, and friends of the poets.

Thompson and Smith, who graduated in 1977 and 2004, respectively, were both recently selected as the 2012 Alabama State Council on the Arts literature fellows.

Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, read selections, for the first time, from her developing new book, “The Myth of W-a-t-e-r”, which delves into the life of Alabama native Helen Keller.

Smith, an English professor at UA and assistant editor of Slash Pine Press, performed a variety of his poems.

Both Thompson and Smith will perform another reading in Montgomery on April 21 in the poetry tent at the Alabama Book Festival.

Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.

ASCA literature fellows to read at UA

TUSCALOOSA—For National Poetry Month, poets Abraham Smith and Jeanie Thompson, 2012 Alabama State Council on the Arts Literature Fellows, will read from their latest works on April 3 at 7:00 p.m. in the Gorgas Library, Room 205, on the University of Alabama campus. Books will also be available for purchase and signing. Free & open to the public, the event is sponsored by the Alabama Center for the Book and the Alabama Writers’ Forum.

Smith is a poet and an instructor of English at the University of Alabama, where he received his MFA in creative writing. He is the assistant editor of Slash Pine Press. His work includes two books of poetry, Whim Man Mammon and Hank; a chapbook, Last Ride; and numerous poems published in literary journals. His poetry is praised for its energy and lyricism and has been described as “vivid,” “refreshing,” and “exciting.” Smith has traveled the country giving public readings from his book of elegies for Hank Williams. His current project is a book of poems on blues singers of Mississippi and Alabama.

Thompson has published four collections of poetry, White for Harvest: New and Selected Poems, Witness, How to Enter the River, and her most recent, The Seasons Bear Us.  Thompson holds the MFA from the University of Alabama, where she was founding editor of the literary journal Black Warrior Review. Thompson has twice been awarded an Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. She has also received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Louisiana State Arts Council, and she was a Walter Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writers Conference.

Since 1993, Thompson has directed the award-winning Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization in Montgomery. She also teaches part-time in the Spalding University Brief Residency MFA Writing Program in Louisville, Ky. During her ASCA Fellowship year, Thompson is completing a book-length persona poem sequence about the adult life of Alabama author and activist Helen Keller, working titled This Day.

For more information, contact Donna Adcock at the Alabama Center for the Book, 205-348-7561 or

Photo: Jeanie Thompson (Jamie Martin); Abraham Smith (courtesy of the author)