The Walt Whitman Champions of Literacy Award

The Walt Whitman Champions of Literacy Award was established to recognize the best supporters of literacy in America. Champions of Literacy are people or businesses who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting literacy. A connection to Walt Whitman, known as the Poet of Democracy and acclaimed as “America’s Shakespeare” according to eminent literary critic Harold Bloom, is not required, though it considered a plus.

Literary Achiever Award

Literary Achiever Champions are individuals who enhance the impact of literacy through their body of work comprised of any writing genre: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, journalism, scriptwriting, screenwriting, and songwriting. They have gone beyond their craft and attained notable success in promoting and nurturing literacy.
2009 – Phil Levine, Poet
2010- Ray Bradbury
2011 – Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhist educator, philosopher, poet
2012 – E. L. Doctorow
2013 – Anne Frank
2015 – Nelson DeMille
2016 – Dana Gioia

Individual Leader Award

Individual Leader Champions have achieved leadership roles in enhancing the positive image of reading for education, information, and enjoyment. Through notable efforts in organization, fundraising, enhancing public awareness, and advocacy of literacy issues, they have had extraordinary positive impact.
2009 Angela Anton, Publisher, Anton Community Newspapers
2010 – Tracey Edwards, VP Verizon Long Island
2011 – Frank Petrone, Huntington Town Supervisor
2012 – none
2013 – John Barr

Enterprise Award

Enterprise Champions are CEOs of businesses or organizations that have demonstrated outstanding success in publicly promoting literacy. They need to have notably and heavily contributed to maintaining and promoting a place for the written and spoken word in literature.
2009 – Jeff Bezos & Amazon.com
2010 – none
2011 – Tom Schneider, Executive VP Simon Properties (Walt Whitman Mall)
2012 – none
2013 – Deborah Weber

Education & Cultural Arts Advocate – special category 2010

Education & Cultural Arts Advocates are Champions who have demonstrated outstanding support for literary, cultural and historic organizations. They have notably and extensively contributed to maintaining a place for the written work through their efforts in sustaining and preserving institutions whose mission is to promote the cultural arts.
2010 – Assemblyman Steven Englebright


The WWBA commitment to Literacy echoes the efforts of Walt Whitman

Many of our programs help meet a crucial national need to enhance literacy. According to the Literacy Partners website www.literacypartners.org

” Over 97 million Americans cannot read beyond the fifth grade level and nearly 3.7 million New Yorkers need adult literacy services. An inability to read and compute hinders millions of individuals from reaching their potential as parents and citizens and prevents them from participating fully in society. Low literacy skills cost American businesses billions in lost productivity each year. High levels of functional illiteracy are felt throughout our community, leading to multigenerational cycles of poverty, poor health, school failure, higher tax burdens, and remain as obstacles to economic growth.”

The WWBA Vision for Literacy is implemented through following a rigorous two-part process centered on 1: Student Literacy and 2: Adult Literacy. We aim to create a greater national passion for reading – for children, families and adult learners alike. The result is a personal, effective, and enduring impact on our students and teachers, coupled with increasing appreciation of writing and reading poetry.

Student Literacy
1. Offering structured literacy practices through a variety of multidisciplinary educational programs for students of all ages. This is accomplished through engaging reading & writing poetry activities, taught by certified teachers and published poets in an enjoyable non-competitive learning environment. Over 7,000 students were served in 2010.
2. Promoting excellence in writing literacy through our annual Young Student Poetry Writing Contest. Over 4,000 entries in 2010.
3. Acknowledging excellence in writing literacy through our Young Student Poetry Writing Contest with 5 first place winners & 115 honorable mention winners.
4. Distributing 120 books as prizes to the Young Student Poetry Writing Contest
5. Helping students strengthen fluency, vocabulary and comprehension to become proficient, life-long readers.
6. Providing resources for teachers, literacy organizations and anyone interested in reading and education

Adult Literacy
1. Promoting excellence in reading literacy through monthly poetry readings,
book signings, and annual marathon readings of Leaves of Grass.
2. Promoting excellence in writing through a variety of creative writing workshops including our annual Poet-in-Residence Masters Class in Poetry Writing.
3. Recognizing national excellence in writing through our annual Poet-in-Residence Award will be awarded in 2017 to Marilyn Hacker.
4. Recognizing local excellence in writing through our annual Long Island Poet of the Year Award will be awarded in 2017 to Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan.
5. Sponsoring a Whitman Writer in Residence George Wallace to assist with promotion and programming.
6. Helping teaching professionals establish/improve good literacy programs and practices, which become the foundation for personal, social and economic success.

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