The GRATEFUL AMERICAN™ BOOK PRIZE is the only award for excellence in writing, storytelling and illustration for children’s historical non-fiction and fiction focused on the events and personalities that have shaped the United States since the country’s founding.
The Prize, which was created by author and publisher David Bruce Smith and Dr. Bruce Cole, the former Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, consists of a $13,000 cash award in commemoration of the 13 original Colonies. It is believed to be among the highest cash awards among book prizes in general. In addition, the winner will receive a medal created by Smith’s mother, the renowned artist Clarice Smith.
One of the prime intentions of the Prize is the restoration of history as an integral part of early education in the United States. Perhaps it will encourage a “grass roots” movement that will allow the country’s successes and failures of the past to inform the future.
In recent decades, education has concentrated on math and science, even in elementary and middle school classrooms. History has been pushed out in favor of subjects that may offer economic gain for the individual and the country. Though this is a worthy objective, it fosters a lack of understanding of who we are, what we’ve done and what we can do in the future.
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, the third president of the United States and, the founder of the University of Virginia. He stressed the importance of history because: “…apprising them [students] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.”
Ask people how they felt about history class when they were in school, and usually you’ll get a variety of answers with a common complaint: it was as “dry as toast,” as one young adult put it. You will also find that as people get older, they develop a new respect for history.
After making her “dry toast” comment, the woman quoted above had this to say: “Since I left school I have become pretty good at reading lots of historical novels. It’s because they are more interesting. If I had done this whilst still at school, I think that my marks would have been heaps better.”
Thus, the Prize is designed to help stimulate the innate desire in each of us to know about our past. Children, in particular, are curious and interested in how they got here and what it means to be an American. They are taught names, dates and events in the classroom and so it’s understandable why they can become bored. But, give them a book they can understand and to which they can relate – and it stirs their interest for details and context.
Another individual who participated in an online debate on the topic of history put it this way: “It’s good to learn about history because you need to understand your country and your rights. History is used everywhere. A lot of our current political decisions are made based on our history. Knowing about the struggles of African Americans to gain rights is important to understanding the racial divisions of our country. Knowing about the history of how the colonies were treated by England and why the Revolutionary War was fought helps you understand why the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to a free press, is against searches without a search warrant, and there is an amendment which prohibits soldiers from sleeping in your house.”
Parents, guardians and teachers: the Prize is an initiative that will provide resources for encouraging the study of history among the boys and girls who depend on you. It will put a new emphasis on the importance of books that are written in a historically factual and engaging manner specifically for them. And, perhaps, it will result in even more interest among authors and publishers of children’s books to produce works of fiction and non-fiction that cater to the needs of those in your charge.
Authors and publishers: there is a market out there for well-written, well-illustrated and well-researched accounts of the way we, as Americans, were and the way we will continue to grow, prosper and contribute on a global scale in the future. We invite your interest in and support of the Prize. And, of course, we welcome your participation by submitting your books that meet our criteria for consideration.