Literacy Leadership Awards

literacy awards

The National Coalition for Literacy’s Leadership Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to improving adult literacy in the United States. Award recipients have demonstrated a deep and sustained individual or corporate commitment by supporting literacy continuously across the lifespan on the local, state, and national level.

The Coalition made four awards for 2017. The awards event was held on October 4, 2017, in the Cannon House Office Building. Congratulations to the award recipients:

  • Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), for her long-standing dedication to our nation’s adult literacy and language programs and her efforts to safeguard education and other critical programs that ensure equal employment opportunity for adults with low literacy levels, most recently as Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
  • Dr. Stephen Reder, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics, Portland State University, for his tireless advocacy for adult learners and the field of adult education, and for his extensive research on the impacts of adult literacy skills attainment, culminating in the 10-year Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning that has demonstrated the correlation between participation in adult education and increases in income, educational attainment, and civic participation.
  • Dr. Sharon Darling, Founder and President, the National Center for Families Learning, for her key role in recognizing the critical link between parents’ education and children’s learning, and for her nearly three decades of leadership in in establishing a nationwide network of programs that provide high quality, accessible family-based education and that have helped over one million vulnerable families learn and thrive together.
  • The Minnesota ABE Teaching and Learning Advancement System (ATLAS) at Hamline University, for its innovative, practitioner-centered program that provides quality in-service professional development for the ABE/ESOL workforce, promoting program and instructional quality, informing adult literacy practice nationwide, and producing national leaders in the field.


Past award recipients:


  • Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, for his long-standing commitment to advancing adult education at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Senator Jack Reed, who has been a champion for adult education funding in the U.S. Senate, and at the forefront of legislative efforts to strengthen adult education research and adult education’s role in the workforce system and career and technical education.
  • The Division of Consumer & Business Education at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, for its commitment to serving and guiding adults with limited reading ability, and for its outreach to those working with them, particularly teachers in adult basic education and ESL programs.
  • Margaret Becker Patterson, of Research Allies for Lifelong Learning, and Marty Finsterbusch, of VALUE USA, for ALLIES, a groundbreaking research study on adult learner leadership.
  • John Y. Cole, Library of Congress Historian and founding Director of the Center for the Book, who has been instrumental in shaping numerous literacy and reading-promotion programs during his 50-year tenure at the Library, including the Library of Congress Literacy Awards.

In addition, retiring Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the Co-chair of the House Adult Literacy Caucus, received special recognition for his lifelong commitment in support of adult education, and for outstanding leadership in advocating education as a congressional and national priority.


  • Representative Phil Roe (TN)
  • Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia, PA
  • Kavitha Cardoza, Special Correspondent for WAMU/reports on D.C. area news
  • Mary Jane Schmitt and the Adult Numeracy Network (ANN)


  • Senator Jim Webb
  • David Baldacci, author and founder of the Wish You Well Foundation
  • Ruth J. Colvin, Founder of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Syracuse and Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. (now ProLiteracy)
  • The Save Adult Ed Campaign, a Los Angeles-based adult education advocacy group


  • Representative Jared Polis
  • John Corcoran, former adult literacy student and founder of the John Corcoran Foundation (2011)
  • The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, representing the National Literacy*AmeriCorps program (2011)
  • U.S.A. Learns (2011)


  • Senator Thomas Harkin
  • Representative John Yarmuth
  • Kentucky Education Television (KET)
  • McDonald’s English Under the Arches program
  • Archie Willard, Adult Learner Advocate and Leader


  • Representative Raúl Grijalva
  • Senator Patricia Murray
  • Home Safety Council President Meri-K Appy
  • Brenda Dann-Messier, President and CEO of Dorcas Place
  • Calvin Miles, Adult Learner and Advocate
  • Gretchen Wilson, Recording Artist and GED Graduate


  • Representative Rubén Hinojosa
  • Better World Books
  • The National Council of La Raza
  • Dr. John Comings, former Director of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education


  • Representative Michael Castle
  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • David A. Perdue Jr., former Chairman and CEO of Dollar General
  • Dr. Irwin Kirsch, Director of the Center for Global Assessment, Educational Testing Service
  • The UPS Foundation


  • The American Library Association (ALA)
  • Senator Olympia Snowe
  • Representative Dale Kildee
  • Andy Brown, former Executive Director of Public Affairs and Policy Communications at Verizon
  • Jackie Taylor, a Tennessee-based volunteer literacy advocate
2005 Award Winners
2005 Award winners: Denine Torr of the Dollar General Foundation; Rep. William F. Goodling, Retired Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; former New York State Director of Adult Education Garrett Murphy; New Hampshire State Director of Adult Education Art Ellison; Dale Lipschultz, NCL President in 2005.


  • Representative William F. Goodling
  • Senator Edward M. Kennedy
  • The Dollar General Literacy Foundation
  • Art Ellison, New Hampshire State Director of Adult Education
  • Garrett Murphy, Former New York State Director of Adult Education