September 8, 2021 Library of Congress Announces Winners of 2021 Literacy Awards on International Literacy Day

Recipients Include Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, Parents as Teachers National Center and The Luminos Fund

Press Contact: Leah Knobel,
Public Contact: Lee Ann Potter (202) 707-8735,
Website: Literacy Awards

Top prizes of the 2021 Literacy Awards are being awarded to Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, the Parents as Teachers National Center and the Luminos Fund.

Three organizations working to expand literacy and promote reading will be awarded the 2021 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today. Top prizes are being awarded to Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, the Parents as Teachers National Center and the Luminos Fund.

The Literacy Awards, originated by David M. Rubenstein in 2013, honor organizations doing exemplary, innovative and replicable work. The awards recognize the need for the international community to unite in achieving universal literacy.

“Literacy develops the mind and the heart, engages the intellect and imagination, and builds wide-ranging knowledge of the world,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Through the generosity of David M. Rubenstein, the Library of Congress is proud to honor and celebrate the achievements of these extraordinary organizations in their efforts to advance literacy and enable people to survive and thrive in the world.”

Prizes and Recipients

2021 David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000): Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
The Imagination Library, also known as Dolly’s Library, is an initiative of the Dollywood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Dolly Parton in 1988. Dedicated to improving the lives of children by inspiring a love of reading, the Imagination Library provides books free of charge to families through local community partnerships. It first launched in 1995, with 1,760 children enrolled from birth to age 5 in one community; each child in that community received one free book mailed to their home monthly for 60 months. As of March 2021, 1,828,800 books are now mailed every month to children in the U.K., Australia, U.S., Canada, Republic of Ireland, and dozens of indigenous communities, in multiple countries and territories.

Since 2014 when the Imagination Library received “best practice” recognition from the Library of Congress Literacy Awards, the Dollywood Foundation has strategically positioned the Imagination Library for aggressive growth. In 2018, it achieved a staggering milestone of 100 million books mailed to children, and two years later, at the end of 2020, it surpassed 150 million books. Although mailing the books to each child’s home is only one aspect of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, it is a remarkable feat that helps improve literacy on an international scale and creates special moments for children and families.

American Prize ($50,000): The Parents as Teachers National Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Parents as Teachers builds strong communities, thriving families, and children who are healthy, safe and ready to learn by matching parents and caregivers with trained professionals who make regular personal home visits during a child’s earliest years in life, from prenatal through kindergarten. Parents as Teachers (PAT) began in the 1980s and is now the most replicated home visiting model in the United States. The center has trained thousands of early childhood family support professionals through its curricula and programs, which prepare home visitors and supervisors to implement effective parent education in literacy, health and human services. Other groups, such as Head Start, school districts and hospitals, incorporate the PAT curricula into their work. Parents as Teachers boasts almost 1,000 affiliates in the U.S. and six other countries, all comprised of people trained to coach, guide and reinforce parents as early teachers.

International Prize ($50,000): The Luminos Fund, Boston, Massachusetts
The Luminos Fund provides transformative education programs to thousands of out-of-school children, helping them to catch up to grade level, reintegrate into local schools and prepare for lifelong learning. It delivers a joyful-learning approach in classrooms in Ethiopia, Liberia and Lebanon to help children cover three school grades of learning in 10 months. Supported by a number of foundations, the Luminos Fund provides a toolkit for other governments and nongovernmental organizations to adopt its core program, Second Chance. Second Chance students increase their reading ability while gaining confidence and a positive view toward their future. To date, the Luminos Fund has reached more than 152,000 children across the globe.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program is honoring 14 additional organizations for their implementation of highly successful practices in literacy promotion. These honorees, recipients of $5,000 each, are:

  • Associates in Research and Education for Development (ARED), Dakar, Senegal
  • Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Washington, D.C.
  • Books for Kids Foundation, New York, New York
  • The Citizens Foundation (TCF), Karachi, Pakistan
  • Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child, Notre Dame, Indiana
  • Friends of Tonga, Inc., Laurel, Maryland
  • FunDza Literacy Trust, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, University Park, Pennsylvania
  • The Learning Source, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Literacy Connects, Tucson, Arizona
  • Literacy Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Raising a Reader, Milpitas, California
  • Seeds of Literacy, Cleveland, Ohio
  • VALUEUSA, Media, Pennsylvania

Additional information on the awards and previous winners, as well as an interactive program map are available at

David M. Rubenstein is the co-founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group. He is a major benefactor of the Library of Congress and the chairman of the Library’s lead donor group, the James Madison Council.

The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of "international days" to mark important aspects of human life and history, including International Literacy Day on Sept. 8. For more information on International Literacy Day, visit:

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PR 21-049
ISSN 0731-3527