Our Librarian in Seattle --Michelle Willis Shares Caldecott News
In the library world, it is considered a great honor to be chosen to serve on an American Library Association awards committee. Early in 2012, Michelle Willis, Head of Children’s Services at Scotch Plains Public Library, was singled out to serve on the committee to select the 2013 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children published in 2012.
Book store browsers, library users and schoolchildren are all familiar with the gold and silver stickers that signify Caldecott (and Newbery for authors) winners. Michelle says, “When you see the gold or silver medal on the cover of the book, you know you are seeing a notable book. In the library we have nearly all of the Caldecott winners in our collection and a great many of the honor books.”
As soon as the 2013 medal was announced on Monday, January 28, Ms. Willis contacted the library to share this news with the community:
The Caldecott went to "This Is Not My Hat", written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. It's the story of an ambitious tiny fish that steals a hat from a much larger creature. Five Caldecott Honor Books also were named: "Creepy Carrots!" illustrated by Peter Brown and written by Aaron Reynolds, "Extra Yarn," illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett, "Green," illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger," One Cool Friend ," illustrated by David Small and written by Toni Buzzeo, "Sleep Like a Tiger," illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and written by Mary Logue.
Commenting on the year-long process involved in selection, nomination and discussion on the 15-member panel, Ms. Willis states, “I personally have reviewed more than 500 picture books this year! This was an exhausting process but one I will never forget. I learned so much from both the process itself and from the others on the committee. It was truly a collaborative effort.”
In addition to sitting on the Caldecott committee, Michelle Willis serves as co-chair of the New Jersey Statewide Summer Reading Committee and is the Early Literacy Manual Chair for the nationwide Collaborative Summer Library Program. She has been Head of Children’s Services at Scotch Plains Public Library for the past seven years.
Michelle Willis believes that a big part of her job is to communicate the importance of early exposure to books and reading to later success. She states, “Before I was a librarian, I was a teacher. I feel that you can never underestimate the importance of putting reading and children together at an early age. Research has shown that mastery of certain “free reading skills” helps students concentrate on required and textbook reading later on. Making reading and listening to books an enjoyable activity for little ones is key. I think picture books are so important, not just for young pre-readers. There are many, many picture books that are more appropriate for older children. They have very rich text, but the illustrations complement and enhance the text. In the best picture books one can actually tell the story without the text. So, illustration is essential.”
On Saturday, February 2, at 11 am, the library will present a very special story time, in which Ms. Willis will read the Caldecott winner and honor books aloud. Children and adults who attend the program can vote on which book they feel should have won. Advance registration is not required for this program.
The Scotch Plains Library is located at 1927 Bartle Avenue, one block from Park Avenue in the center of town. Driving directions and more information can be found on the library web site, http://www.scoltib.org.