Library of Congress Literacy Awards

How to Apply

Email a completed application form, two letters of reference, the five selection criteria statements and your essay to by 11:59 p.m. EST, March 31.

A complete application contains:

  • A completed application form
  • Two letters of reference (no word count but typically 1,000 words or less)
  • One essay (no more than 750 words)
  • Five statements addressing the selection criteria (maximum 250 words each)


  1. Download the application form and instructions and save the form as “OrganizationName_PrizeCategory,” (i.e., Acme Book applies for the International Prize, the file name is AcmeBook_International.pdf).
  2. Save letters of reference as “OrganizationName_Reference1” and “OrganizationName_Reference2” (i.e., AcmeBooks_Reference1). PDFs are preferred for letters of reference, but text formats such as .rtf, .doc, etc. are also accepted. Please do not send .jpg or .jpeg files.
  3. Complete the application form.
  4. Copy and paste your essay into the appropriate box in the application. This essay may be no more than 750 words.
  5. Copy and paste your five statements addressing the selection criteria into the appropriate boxes. Each of the five statements may be no more than 250 words.
  6. Save all files.
  7. Email the application and the letters of reference to The subject line should read: “Organization name, Prize category, Application” (i.e., Subject: Acme Books International, Rubenstein, Application).

Application Form Instructions

  • If you are applying on behalf of an organization with which you are affiliated, select “self-nomination” in section 1 of the application form. If you are applying on behalf of an organization with which you are not affiliated, select “outside nomination.” You are affiliated with an organization if you are an employee, contractor, volunteer or board member of the organization.
  • The Nominator section does not need to be filled out for self-nominations.
  • When selecting which prize to nominate an organization for, please refer to the award descriptions. An organization may be nominated in only one prize category. In the case of multiple nominations the board may review only one application. Outside nominators should coordinate with the nominee organization to ensure that a single application is submitted and submitted for one prize category only.
  • Your essay should describe the organization's work and summarize why it should be considered for this prize, focusing on how it meets the selection criteria (innovation, sustainability, replicability, measurable results and evidence-based practice). Please include a brief description of organizational history and context. Essays that exceed 750 words may be disqualified.
  • Selection criteria statements should not exceed 250 words each and may contain information included in your essay. The selection criteria are innovation, sustainability, replicability, measurable results and evidence-based practice.
  • You may embed links to additional websites in your essay if you so choose. Check links to make sure that they are correctly spelled and lead to active web pages.


  • Observe the word count limit. You can optimize your word limit by referring to your initiative’s website (note the details that the website provides, such as staffing, budget and resources).
  • Read the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Remember that the letters of recommendation do NOT have a strict word count limit.
  • In your narrative stay focused on providing the most relevant information and specific information or examples to support your case.
  • Usually, it is more effective for the overarching organization to submit a proposal rather than one subset of the organization (for example, a national literacy center rather than one town’s center, which is part of the national group).
  • Focus on the impact—improving people’s lives. You might distribute a million books, but if people don’t read those books then the initiative may or may not be making the difference.
  • If applying for the David M. Rubenstein Prize, demonstrate:
    • Broad and deep impact over time.
    • Growth and improvement over time.
    • How the initiative sustains itself through stable funding, staffing and other support.