WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 13 – A truly historic two-year celebration is underway in the nation’s capital: it is the Golden Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities. During the past five decades the NEH has endeavored to inspire a focus on all aspects of American culture, including the study of U.S. history.
“It is essential that rising generations know what President Lincoln called ‘the mystic chords of memory,’ the tenets and ideals that bind the nation together, sustain our national spirit, and ensure the nation’s survival,” said Bruce Cole, the longest serving Chairman of the NEH (2001-209) Cole was driven by his passion for the culture and history of the U.S. during his tenure at the NEH, a passion that gave him the idea of creating the Grateful American Book Prize, said David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Prize. “He’s the one who came up with the notion for the Prize and together we implemented the project with great success last year,” Smith added.
Over the past several decades schools have gradually deemphasized history in the classroom in favor of so-called STEM education: the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Prize is aimed at offering school children a new pivot on history by offering authors and publishers good reason to produce works of historically accurate fiction and non-fiction for young learners.
“There’s nothing like a page-turner of a book to help tap the innate desire in each of us to know about our past and Bruce Cole knew that. Children, in particular, are curious and interested in how they got here and what it means to be an American. But often their textbooks fail to catch their attention and they can become bored and uninterested.
But, give them a good read—a book they can understand and with which they can relate – and it stirs their interest for details and context,” said Smith.
The first Grateful American Book Prize, $13,000 and a commemorate medallion created by the American artist, Clarice Smith, was presented in October to Kathy Cannon Wiechman for her Civil War novel, Like a River.
“Wiechman’s novel is an exemplar of what the Prize is all about—to encourage authors and publishers to produce fiction and nonfiction that accurately depict the past as a means of engaging young readers in American history.”
The 2016 Prize, which was launched on New Year’s Day, is already attracting much attention in the publishing world.