The Center for the Book will be 25 years old in October 2002. This is the fourth in a series of articles that summarizes its activities during its first quarter century.
Promoting reading is the heart of the Center for the Book's mission. When Congress established the center in October 1977, Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin emphasized the new office's dual aim of promoting books in a multimedia age and of seeing that "books do not go unread." In 1987 the Center for the Book launched its first national reading promotion campaign, "The Year of the Reader." From 1989 to 1992, first lady Barbara Bush was honorary chair of three campaigns. First lady Laura Bush is honorary chair of "Telling America's Stories," the campaign for 2001-2003. Supplemented by promotional materials, each campaign encourages the exchange of ideas about promoting reading–at the local, state, regional, national and international levels.
The center launched its "national reading promotion partners" program in 1987. Today the program includes more than 90 educational, civic and governmental organizations. The annual reading promotion partners' meeting, held this year at the Library on March 18, gives each organization an opportunity to promote its projects and enlist new cooperative partners.
Reading promotion partners and state center affiliates initiate and carry out dozens of projects tailored to their own particular interests and situations. State book festivals, book awards and literary maps are especially popular events. Two projects supported by the national center are Letters About Literature (1984Ð ), a popular annual essay contest that asks students to write to their favorite authors explaining why that author's book made a difference in their lives, and River of Words (1995Ð ), an international environmental poetry and art contest for young people designed to increase awareness of the environment and natural world.
The reading promotion projects of the national Center for the Book and its organizational partners and state affiliates are described on the center's Web site: www.loc.gov/cfbook.
Themes of National Reading Promotion Campaigns, 1987-2003
- 1987: Year of the Reader
- 1989: Year of the Young Reader
- 1991: Year of the Lifetime Reader
- 1992: Explore New Worlds–READ!
- 1993-1994: Books Change Lives
- 1995-1996: Shape Your Future–READ!
- 1997-2000: Building a Nation of Readers
- 2001-2003: Telling America's Stories
"Telling America's Stories" Is Eighth National Reading Promotion Campaign Responding to an invitation from Dr. Billington in early 2001, first lady Laura Bush agreed to be Honorary Chair of "Telling America's Stories," the Library's eighth national reading promotion campaign. The Center for the Book and the American Folklife Center are cosponsors of the three-year endeavor, which draws on storytelling and oral traditions to encourage appreciation of books, reading, libraries and other repositories of America's cultural heritage. Posters and brochures outlining how individuals, families, organizations, businesses, schools and libraries can participate in the campaign are available from the Center for the Book at (202) 707-5221, fax (202) 707-0269, e-mail: email@example.com.
Book and Reading Promotion Highlights
Oct. 20, 1977. Two weeks after its establishment by Congress, the Center for the Book hosts an all-day meeting to discuss various ways that the new center might use the prestige and resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. In addition to specialists from the Library of Congress, the 20 participants included authors, scholars and publishers and many members of the center's first National Advisory Board.
Nov. 14, 1979. The Library of Congress-CBS Television "Read More About It" book project begins with the CBS telecast of "All Quiet on the Western Front." Richard Thomas, the program's star, presents a 30-second message from the Library, suggesting several books that viewers could find in their local libraries and bookstore to "read more about" World War I. By the time the project ends in 1999, more than 400 separate messages from the Library have been presented by CBS stars on prime-time television programs, including dramas, news programs, musical and variety shows, made-for-television movies, and sports and children's programs.
May 19, 1983. The Center for the Book hosts a national "Radio and Reading" conference to find new ways of linking radio, the spoken word, reading and books.
Sept. 1983. ABC Children's Television and the Center for the Book launch a new reading promotion project, "Cap'n O.G. Readmore," an animated cat who is smart because he reads a lot–and lives in an alley behind a public library.
1987. The Center for the Book publishes a 14-page pamphlet, National Themes for Promoting Reading.
Dec. 5, 1988. In the White House's Oval Office, President Ronald Reagan signs a Proclamation for the "Year of the Young Reader," the Library's reading promotion theme for 1989.
Jan. 30, 1989. At the White House, first lady Barbara Bush agrees to serve as honorary chair of the "Year of the Young Reader" campaign.
Jan. 26, 1992. The "Read More About It" message presented by CBS announcer Terry Bradshaw during the Super Bowl game between the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills is seen by more than 70 million football fans–a record number of viewers.
Sept. 10, 1996. The third anniversary of the "Great Books" television series, developed by The Learning Channel at Discovery Communications Inc. in cooperation with the Center for the Book, is marked with a program and reception in the Library's Great Hall. Celebrity readers include Walter Cronkite, Joseph Heller, Zoe Caldwell, Sen. Trent Lott and Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
June 27, 1998. Theo and Cleo, the stars of the new public television reading and literacy promotion program "Between the Lions," debut at a reception at the Library of Congress. The Center for the Book is one of the program's several educational outreach partners.