CHICAGO — Betsy Lobmeyer and her project “Charlie’s Ever Warming Blankets” Children in Poverty, is the inaugural recipient of the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award. Sponsored by Penguin Random House, the Roald Dahl Award recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.
“Charlie’s Ever Warming Blankets,” designed for 3rd-6th grade students at Plymell Elementary in Garden City, Kan., combined a four-week study on the concept of social justice in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with a charitable project. Students read and discussed Dahl’s work and voted as a group to make blankets for children of jailed women in Ecuador. Children under the age of 2 years old remain with their mother while she serves her sentence and often go without simple comfort items such as blankets or toys.
The project inspired students to discuss what it would be like for children to spend their first years in jail, how life can be unfair and how a small gift can make a big difference. Fifty students then spent two weeks making blankets out of fleece and flannel to send the children of inmates. The words “paz,” “fe” and “amor” (“peace,” “faith” and “love”) were stitched into the corner of each flannel blanket.
"Our project combined three student activities dear to my heart; reading good books, creative hand work and increasing awareness of the big world beyond our small community," said Lobmeyer. "We had a wonderful time studying 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' laughing and cringing and rooting for poor Charlie. The idea of the babies in prison in Ecuador captivated our hearts and imaginations, and students were enthusiastically engaged in creating the blankets. In the end, 50 students were introduced to the wonderful world of Roald Dahl, learned simple embroidery skills, and gave something of themselves to help someone across the world. What could be better?"
“The Miss Honey committee members were impressed with how the students attacked a social justice issue, accepted the challenge and made a difference in the world,” said award committee chair Terry Young. “This project brought home clearly to the children in this school that even a child can play a part in reaching out into the world to bring comfort and compassion to those who need it most. Like Charlie, they learned that family is the most important thing.”
Lobmeyer will receive $2,000 and up to $1,000 in reimbursement towards travel and housing to attend the AASL awards presentation at the ALA Annual Conference. In addition, the Plymell Elementary school library will receive a $5,000 book donation from Penguin Random House.
"Thank you to Penguin Random House and especially the teachers and students of Plymell Elementary," said Lobmeyer. "Their enthusiastic participation made this project possible, and fun."
The Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey Social Justice Award recognizes AASL members who have collaboratively designed a lesson, event or course of study on social justice. The award is named for Miss Honey, a character in Dahl’s “Matilda,” honoring the way many of Roald Dahl’s books convey a child’s sense of social justice. In “Matilda,” Miss Honey is a nurturing educator who supports the title character, a gifted young girl in an unkind home.
All AASL award winners will be honored at AASL's Awards Ceremony during the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. The ceremony will be held from 9 – 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, and is open to all attendees.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.