2016 ALSC Penguin Young Readers Group Award Winners

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has awarded the 2016 Penguin Young Readers Group Award to Elizabeth Esposito, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, New York; Kristel Sexton, Ypsilanti District Library, Ypsilanti, Michigan; Kelly Shea, Paoli Library, Paoli, Pennsylvania; and Caryn Wilson, Three Rivers Public Library, Three Rivers, Michigan.

The $600 stipend, made possible by an annual gift from Penguin Young Readers Group, enables up to four children’s librarians to attend their first American Library Association’s Annual Conference.  Applicants must have more than one year and less than ten years of experience as a children’s librarian working directly with children in elementary, middle school, or public libraries.  Applications are evaluated based on new programming and innovations started by the applicant, as well as involvement in ALSC and other professional and educational associations.

At South Huntington Public Library, children and parents are already benefiting from Elizabeth Esposito’s programming ideas which she gleaned from taking an ALSC online course on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programming.  She runs a wide variety of annual programs from a Preschool Fair, Teddy Bear Sleepover, and school-age book clubs to hands-on science in an Egg Drop event where kids design and build contraptions to keep their eggs from breaking when dropped off the library roof.  Esposito has also been responsible for her library being awarded grants for family book discussions.

A monthly Library Lab at the Whittaker branch of Ypsilanti District Library in Michigan is thriving due to the development of Kristel Sexton.  At the Lab, kids learn basic STEM concepts and have creative fun.  The series includes special programs featuring experts such as Minecraft coders and Michigan Science Center staff.  Sexton is also helping fill the lack of school libraries in the area by starting a Teacher Services program to provide grade-level-appropriate library materials to teachers for their classrooms.  When they began the program, they had eight teachers sign up.  18 months later, over 90 teachers are using the program.

Kelly Shea is a brand-new librarian and the only children’s librarian on staff at her branch in Paoli, Pennsylvania, so she is responsible for all of the children’s collection development, programming, budgeting, and reference.  Besides expanding existing programs by including science, math, geography, music, hand-eye coordination, dance, and other important subjects for young minds, she has already begun a STEM club for children ages 7 to 12.  At the club, children do hands-on activities and get child-centered instruction, but are allowed to experiment and learn by trial and error.  Children explain their findings to each other and get to expand their social skills while learning about science and having fun.

An early literacy center at Three Rivers Public Library in Michigan, including magnetic trace letters, magic erase boards, toys, blocks, and other materials enhancing early literacy, is the work of Caryn Wilson.  She also brought “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” and “Read to Rover” programs to her library, as well as monthly author programs and Little Wigglers baby programs.  Wilson is the only children’s staff at her branch and runs regular story times, family events, and after-school activities.  She visits local classrooms and reaches out to her community beyond the library walls.

All of the award recipients display tremendous creativity and innovation as they reach out to the children and families in their communities.  The Grants Administration Committee members are excited that these children’s librarians will be able to attend ALA Annual Conference and come back to their communities with even more ideas and plans.

ALSC, a division of the ALA, is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.  With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries.  To learn more about ALSC, visit ALSC’s website at www.ala.org/alsc.