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Organizations that Promote Adolescent Literacy

From lesson plans and classroom tools to free books and opportunities to publish students’ work, nonprofit organizations have a lot to offer parents, teachers, and struggling readers themselves. Learn about some nonprofits with a commitment to helping young people become better readers and writers.

There are many associations, nonprofit organizations, and other institutions dedicated to promoting literacy and helping children become readers and writers. And while the subset of those groups that focus efforts on tweens and teens readers is not large, we think you’ll find some useful resources and a few off-the-beaten-path ideas below for motivating young people to keep books close at hand.

Academy of American Poets(opens in a new window)

The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. The Academy offers, an award-winning website; National Poetry Month in April, the largest literary celebration in the world; the Poetry Audio Archive, a collection of nearly 500 recordings; and the Online Poetry Classroom, an online resource providing free poetry lesson plans and other tools for teachers. You can also find out more about the American Poetry and Literacy Project(opens in a new window) and its mission to mission is to distribute free poetry books in public places.

Artists for Literacy(opens in a new window)

By listening to songs inspired by literature, students at all reading levels can connect to the author’s message. Artists for Literacy engages artists in the issue of literacy and channels their contributions into accessible, innovative arts-and music-based learning tools for teachers in order to enrich the lives of reading challenged youth and adults. Connect students with books through music with lesson plans from AFL’s Songs Inspired By Literature (SIBL) Project. And AFL makes it is easy to find out if a book you are reading or teaching has a song associated with it — the SIBL Library offers an extensive searchable collection of Songs Inspired By Literature.

Association for Library Service to Children(opens in a new window)

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, children’s literature experts, and others committed to improving and ensuring the future of the nation through exemplary library service to children, their families, and those who work with children. ALSC provides many practical and excellent resources to support children’s librarians and educators in their work and also to guide children and their families and caregivers to the best resources available in print, nonprint, and emerging formats. ALSC booklists include “Building a Home Library,” bibliographies from the ALA-Children’s Book Council (CBC) Joint Committee that provide guidance for setting up a high-quality library for children at home, great middle school reads, and annual lists of notable children’s books.

Barahona Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents(opens in a new window)

The San Marcos campus of California State University hosts the Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents, an academic center that promotes literacy in English and Spanish. The Center’s efforts, including workshops, publications, and a free searchable database of 5,000 recommended books in Spanish, focus attention on books centered around Latino people and culture and about the value of books in Spanish in the education of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking children and adolescents.

Cable in the Classroom(opens in a new window)

Innovative use of technology and media can dramatically influence the learning process. Taking a multimedia, broadband journey to see how Shakespeare’s words changed as they went from pen to printing press to stage, and finally to screen is just one of the many resources for learning in a wide range of subject areas available from Cable in the Classroom. Cable in the Classroom works in partnership with and on behalf of the cable industry to improve teaching and learning for children in schools, at home, and in their communities. This nonprofit organization’s broad variety of efforts include providing free cable and broadband connections to schools and libraries across the country, access to 500+ hours of educational television programming and online resources from cable networks, and offering parents and caregivers the information and tools they need to take charge of technology and media in their homes.

First Book(opens in a new window)

First Book is a national nonprofit that has provided more than 50 million new books to children in need. In neighborhoods across the country, First Book unites leaders from all sectors of the community to identify the most effective community-based literacy programs reaching children living at or below the poverty line and provide them with grants of free books and educational materials. The First Book National Book Bank, a subsidiary of First Book, is the first centralized system that enables publishers to donate books and educational materials online to reach millions of children. The First Book Marketplace is the first-ever online sales opportunity that offers a large selection of high quality new books at the lowest possible cost to nonprofit and related organizations serving children in need.

The Heart of America Foundation(opens in a new window)

The Heart of America Foundation’s mission is to teach the values at the heart of America and to help people, particularly children, learn that they help themselves when they help others. Uniquely combining character education, literacy, and service learning, Heart of America’s programs include Books From The Heart, a literacy program which engages students, corporations, and other organizations in gathering books that are not being used, solicits publishers for surplus books, and then gets these books into the hands of needy elementary school children and onto the empty shelves of school libraries located in areas of poverty. The program also serves as a vehicle to introduce young people to community service through book drives.

International Reading Association(opens in a new window)

The International Reading Association is a professional membership organization dedicated to promoting high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading, and encouraging the lifetime reading habit. IRA’s network includes classroom teachers, reading specialists, consultants, administrators, supervisors, university faculty, researchers, psychologists, librarians, media specialists, and parents and extends to more than 300,000 people worldwide.

To further broaden their reach, IRA also partners with other professional and nonprofit organizations that promote reading and literacy. IRA and the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) work together to provide educators and students with access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction through free, Internet-based content at in a new window). And Rotary International and the International Reading Association developed Every School a Star, a Web-based resource designed to help Rotary clubs and IRA reading councils carry out literacy projects.

National Writing Project(opens in a new window)

The National Writing Project (NWP) is the only federally funded program that focuses on the teaching of writing. The NWP is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, foundations, corporations, universities, and K-12 schools. Its mission is to improve student achievement by improving the teaching of writing through a nationwide network of educators working together to strengthen writing instruction in America’s schools. Sites within the NWP network are hosted by universities and colleges and co-directed by faculty from the local university and from K-12 schools. These local partnerships give area school districts the opportunity to offer high-quality professional development programs for educators and large-scale improvements in student writing.

Newspaper Association of America Foundation(opens in a new window)

The Newspaper Association of America Foundation is a national nonprofit organization whose programs are supported by an endowment funded by the newspaper industry. The NAA Foundation strives to develop engaged and literate citizens through investment in and support of programs designed to enhance student achievement through newspaper readership and appreciation of the First Amendment. The Foundation’s programs and products emphasize the use of newspapers and other media by young people and include the Newspapers in Education (NIE) program, the Youth Editorial Alliance, and student newspapers. The Foundation provides extensive resources and training on using newspapers in schools as more than 94 percent of all newspapers in the United States with a circulation of more than 15,000 daily have active NIE programs.

Reading Is Fundamental(opens in a new window)

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the nation’s oldest and largest children’s literacy organization. If you currently work with children — from infants to adolescents — and you want to help them become more successful readers, RIF can help. By delivering free books and literacy resources to those children and families who need them most, RIF prepares and motivates children to read. Any public agency or private nonprofit group may apply to RIF to start a program. Through its grassroots network, RIF provides 4.5 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources each year. With more than 40 years of experience bringing the joys of reading to children, RIF also offers an incredible wealth of reading motivation activities and tips for parents and educators.

TeenInk(opens in a new window)

The Young Authors Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that is devoted to helping teens share their own voices. TeenInk, originally established in 1989 as The 21st Century magazine by The Young Authors Foundation, is a national teen magazine, book, and Web site featuring teen writing, information, art, photos, poetry, teen issues, and more. All articles are written by teenage authors who are students at K-12 schools. The monthly print magazine is appropriate for teenagers ages thirteen to nineteen attending secondary school: junior high school, middle school, and high school. More than 25,000 teens have published in the magazine and its companion, Poetry Journals.

YALSA(opens in a new window)

Every day, thousands of teenagers set foot in a school, public, community college, or university library and the members of Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) are there to serve them. The fastest growing division of the American Library Association (ALA), YALSA is the respected leader in selecting books, videos, and audio books for teens. YALSA annually sponsors “Teen Read Week” the third week of each October to get teens to read just for the fun of it. To do so, YALSA provides a wealth of resources, booklists, and materials aimed at getting young adults to read.

Rachael Walker began her career in literacy outreach at Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). She has also served as a consultant to the National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign, the U.S. Department of Education’s America Reads program, and was most recently the Executive Director of Reach Out and Read of Metro DC. She currently consults for HarperCollins Children’s Books and Learning Media at WETA. 2007