NCTE and Penguin Random House Award Norcross, GA, Educator with $10,000 Grant for “Woke” Reading Challenge - National Council of Teachers of English

NCTE and Penguin Random House Award Norcross, GA, Educator with $10,000 Grant for “Woke” Reading Challenge


Press Contact: Natasha Lesser, Hatcher Group,, or Janelle Martin, NCTE,


BALTIMORE, MD (Nov. 23, 2019) – Meadowcreek High School librarian Cicely Lewis was awarded the 2019 National Teacher Award for Lifelong Readers by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and Penguin Random House (PRH) at the 2019 NCTE Annual Convention in Baltimore, MD. The $10,000 grant, which honors a teacher who inspires their students to read all genres of writing, will support the expansion of Lewis’s Read Woke Community of Readers Challenge program.

This year marks the first time that the National Teacher Award for Lifelong Readers has been jointly awarded by NCTE and PRH. One of the world’s largest publishing houses, PRH is partnering with NCTE to recognize excellence in teaching of literature and literacy, with the belief that teachers are the key to instilling a love of reading and poetry in children.

Lewis, a 2019 Library Journal Mover and Shaker and Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year, created the Read Woke challenge in 2017 in response to a growing number of questions and concerns from students about the shootings of unarmed Black boys, the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the lack of diversity in young adult literature. The goal was to encourage students to read books that “challenge the social norm and give voice to the voiceless.” The challenge has since spread to educators across the world who have joined in and challenged their own students to read woke books.

“The books Ms. Lewis’s students read through the Read Woke challenge act as windows and mirrors that allow young people to see themselves and the larger world in what they read,” says Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE Executive Director. “That’s how you develop lifelong readers. We’re thrilled to be able to support this educator’s vital work alongside Penguin Random House.”

The award selection committee, made up of teachers and PRH representatives, chose Lewis’s project based on its reach, its sustainability, and its strong connection to NCTE values and national conversations on critical issues in education and society. The grant will expand the Read Woke program with t-shirts, field trips to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a poetry celebration, literacy kits, a bookmobile visit to students’ local libraries, and author visits.


The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is the nation’s most comprehensive literacy organization, supporting more than 25,000 teachers across the preK–college spectrum. Through the expertise of its members, NCTE has served at the forefront of every major improvement in the teaching and learning of English and the language arts since 1911.