WAIMEA — Books help shape young minds throughout the world, and one Kauai librarian is working with a national effort to distinguish the best American picture books for children.
In 2016, Michelle Young, the branch manager at Waimea Public Library, was elected to serve on the 2018 Caldecott Award Committee by members of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. Seven of the 15 committee members are elected each year, while the other eight are appointed by the association’s president.
“Ever since I became a librarian, it was a professional dream to serve on the Caldecott Award Committee, because I love children’s picture books,” Young said. “I enjoy finding new, funny and interactive books to share in our library’s Storytime program. I am often blown away by the quality of the illustrations in contemporary picture books.”
The prestigious Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States during the preceding year. The award was established in 1937 and named in honor of 19th century English illustrator, Randolph Caldecott.
The award committee members were charged with reading as many eligible picture books that were published in 2017. In October, November and December, each member submitted a total of seven nominations of titles for award consideration.
When the committee met in Denver at the Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting conference for discussion in February, they could only consider books that were nominated by at least one member.
“Hundreds of children’s books are published every year, so it is helpful for a team of experienced children’s librarians to assess them and point out the most outstanding titles,” Young said. “Of course, every award is subjective, but it is meaningful to have 15 individuals with diverse backgrounds stand behind the award and honor winners.”
After highlighting the strengths and flaws of each book, the committee eventually decided on an award winner: “Wolf in the Snow,” illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell.
“For illustrators the award is important, because it impacts their book’s sales and can give them more career opportunities,” Young said. “For teachers, it can be a fun exercise to hold mock Caldecott discussions with their students to have them develop critical thinking skills and learn to talk about books. And for families, it can help them decide what to purchase as gifts or for their home libraries.”
This year’s committee also chose to honor books such as “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” illustrated with oil paintings by Gordon James and written by Derrick Barnes; “Big Cat, Little Cat,” illustrated and written by Elisha Cooper; “A Different Pond,” illustrated by Thi Bui and written by Bao Phi; and “Grand Canyon,” illustrated and written by Jason Chin.
“It is a joy to fulfill our library’s mission of nurturing a lifelong love of reading and learning for people of all ages,” Young said.
“My absolute favorite thing is to help people find books that appeal to them. I also like to encourage families with young children to practice early learning skills by reading, talking and playing together. One way we do that is through our library’s weekly Storytime/playgroup program.”
Dedicated to literacy and arts, Young earned a masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington in 2008.
She has served as children’s librarian at Lihue Public Library, branch manager at Princeville Public Library, reference librarian at Hawaii State Library, and library assistant at Lihue Public Library.
“Lots of kids, my daughter included, like to go to the beach to play and swim,” Young said. “Think of the library as the ‘beach for your brain,’ because it’s another place for recreation — just through reading!”
The married mother of a 2-year-old daughter is grateful for Waimea Public Library’s small staff that works well together, such as assistant Casey Agena and janitor Linda Delos Reyes-Olores.
“Because of Casey’s support, I have been able to offer more programs in our library as well as participate in community outreach events such as Kekaha Elementary School’s STEM night,” Young said.
Everyone is invited to join Waimea Library’s Summer Reading Program this June. All Kauai libraries will host various programs and provide incentives for reading, recording and keeping track of the minutes read using a new online program called Beanstack.
“Our strength is books, but we offer more than that — movies, music, internet access, ebooks, cultural programs,” Young said. “We are a community library, and we want to know what interests you!”