Three Alaskans win awards for contributions to literacy

Three Alaskans have been honored with Contributions to Literacy in Alaska Awards, presented annually by the Alaska Center for the Book. Honorees are novelist Eowyn Ivey of Chickaloon, author of “The Snow Child”; reading volunteer Polly Tocktoo of Brevig Mission; and historian and library advocate Ron Inouye of Fairbanks.


The CLIA Awards, now in their 21st year, are given to people and institutions that have made a significant contribution in literacy, the literary arts, or the preservation of the written or spoken word in Alaska.

Eowyn Ivey is the first Alaskan to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Her first book, “The Snow Child,” has been published in more than 20 languages and 30 countries. She has traveled the world talking about and promoting the book, and sharing stories about Alaska; she visited Juneau earlier this year. A former reporter for the Frontiersman, she is at work on her second book.

Polly Tocktoo is a volunteer for the Imagination Library in Brevig Mission, an Inupiat village of less than 400 people 65 miles northwest of Nome. Tocktoo initiated the program in 2010, providing free books to young children in a village where most families did not have children’s books at home. She raises money for the program, engages parents, hosts family nights, and testifies before the state legislature and other funding groups, all in an effort to keep literacy growing in her village.

Ron Inouye of Fairbanks has been a long-time advocate of history and libraries in Alaska. He is retired from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, and president of the Tanana-Yukon Historic Society. He has been a behind-the-scenes facilitator for many literary and literacy-related projects, from the Reel History summer film series and the Alaska Book Festival in Fairbanks, to the State Library Archives and Museum project underway in Juneau. He is also a co-author of “Alaska’s Japanese Pioneers”.

The CLIA Awards were presented July 16 at 101 Rasmuson Hall on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. Immediately afterwards, authors Rich Chiappone and Andromeda Romano-Lax presented readings as part of the Northern Renaissance Arts and Science Reading Series, held in conjunction with the MFA program in creative writing at UAA’s Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts.

Founded in 1991, the Alaska Center for the Book is the state affiliate of the U.S. Library of Congress Center for the Book. It is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization.

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