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Program Library of Congress Literacy Awards

Selection Criteria

Each application is evaluated based on the five selection criteria described here. The applications are rated on a 100-point scoring system, with different weights for each selection criterion by prize category, listed below.


20 points for American and International; 15 points for Rubenstein

Unique, original, creative and forward-thinking approaches to literacy are considered when evaluating an organization’s innovation. From implementing ideas no one else has tried to fresh approaches to community building and partnerships, innovation includes developing new and well-suited solutions. Examples of innovation from previous applicants: leveraging emerging technology, teaching literacy to newlyweds, closed-captioned songs and storefront literacy centers for teens.


15 points for American and International; 25 for Rubenstein

Organizations are evaluated for sustainability by examining several factors, including a predictable and strong budget, funding sources, stability of service, institutional support and community participation. Typically, a self-sustaining initiative is not a one-time campaign, based on soft money or dependent on the leadership of one individual. Sustainable organizations often have several funding sources, as in these models: a baseline fund, such as from a national public library, supported by additional funding from partners for enhanced services; or several stable and continuous funding sources such as a foundation, sponsoring partners and profits from training or publications.


15 points for American and International; 10 for Rubenstein

Replicable initiatives help further the cause of literacy throughout the world. Organizations are evaluated for replicability by examining the ease and scalability of their model. With the details of the initiative and its guidelines, can another organization replicate the effort? Initiatives that succeed due to the influence of a small group of people, unique circumstances or financial windfall are not easily replicable. Examples of replicable initiatives from previous applicants: train-the-trainer model, guides and tutorials, and building through existing structures such as healthcare.

Evidence-Based Practice

10 points for American, International and Rubenstein

Relevance and legitimacy of an initiative are evaluated by examining its research and reliance on existing professional literature and applied practice. Organizations with thorough evidence-based practice cite research and clearly state how its recommendations have been consulted and applied to develop their initiative in specific ways. Examples of demonstrated evidence-based practice: the initiative’s actions model theory and research; research led to the development of the initiative and its methodology is used to demonstrate significant improvement; the initiative’s impact is measured with the evaluation tools from research; and literacy researchers serve as consultants and external evaluators.

Measurable Results

25 points for American, International and Rubenstein

The impact of an organization is evaluated with measurable results in comparison with baseline data. While anecdotes are compelling, the impact should be in terms of the target group’s improved reading competence. Ideally, this literacy improvement results in measurable outcomes such as employment and promotion, academic pursuit and success, improved family literacy, better health and better consumer decisions. Measurements of individual improved literacy might include increases in: reading and writing scores, participation in reading and writing competitions, academic course grades, number of minutes reading and reports of self-confidence as readers. Measurable impact may also include evidence such as enactment of literacy-related legislation, improved literacy curriculum, publications by the target audience, new libraries to support increased literacy demands, more literate employees and the establishment of book clubs.

Community Responsiveness

15 points for American, International and Rubenstein

Community responsiveness is evaluated by the organization’s awareness and responses to the unique identities and social needs of the communities served. Organizations that respond to the community define, develop and practice literacy in ways that move beyond only reading, writing, and speaking skills development to emotional, intellectual, individual, societal, and cultural awareness and self-empowerment.