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What Makes Great Books for Early Readers? Just ask the kids at The Miquon School

Broadcast via live stream from Seattle, WA, this winter the American Library Association (ALA) held its Youth Media Awards, the annual ceremony revealing the year’s picks for best books, videos and materials for children and teens—including the recipients of the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and the Newbery book awards.

Also familiar to many is the ALA’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, named for the children’s author better known as Dr. Seuss.

Overseeing the selection of the winners as head of the Geisel Award Committee was The Miquon School’s own, Librarian Sarah Stippich (East Falls). Stippich, who began as Miquon’s new librarian in September, brought with her several years of experience working at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

“Recent research concerning Theodor Geisel’s early work as an editorial cartoonist has reinvigorated discussions about diversity and representation in children’s literature,” explained Stippich.

“Overall, today’s Youth Media Awards are a great resource for children’s librarians and educators, who are constantly seeking excellent books which reflect and help young people better understand the diversity of our world.”

Comprising librarians from across the country, the Geisel Committee collaborated for many hours over the last weekend in January leading up to the awards presentation, ultimately selecting the 2019 Geisel Award winner and honorees.

Geisel Committee members The members of the 2019 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Committee, shown clockwise from the lower left: Diana Garcia, Monterey Park (CA) Bruggemeyer Library; Alex Matheson, Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Ellysa Stern Cahoy, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, PA; Angela Frederick, Williamson County Schools, Nolensville, TN; Cathryn Mercier, Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons University, Boston; Toby D. Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL; and Chair Sarah Stippich.

“It was a weekend full of long, long meetings with my committee members who were just as excited to talk about the best books for beginning readers this year,” explained Stippich.

According to the ALA, Geisel Award winners are recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in Kindergarten through second grade in reading.

This year, the Geisel committee selected author and illustrator Corey R. Tabor as the 2019 award winner for his book, “Fox the Tiger,” as well as four additional honorees. All five recipients will receive their awards in Washington, D.C., during the ALA Annual Conference in June.

“Featuring Tabor’s hip art and quirky, surprising twists, ‘Fox the Tiger’ is an inviting tale of the power of transformation and friendship. Repetition, a predictable pattern, and short, simple sentences give readers ample chance to practice their beginning reading skills,” Stippich said.

As committee chair, Stippich was able to bring her first-hand knowledge of what makes great literature for early readers to her Library Specialist classes at Miquon. Forming a Junior Geisel Committee, Stippich led children in grades 1-6 in their own critical evaluation of the new children’s books up for consideration for the award.

Nathaniel Taylor, a fifth grader from Chestnut Hill, explained: “We read a lot of picture books and practiced finding the good and bad parts.”

Together the children reviewed all of the Geisel candidate books for readability, vocabulary, sentence length, picture clues, book design, and appeal—all of the same categories the actual committee uses in their consideration of potential awardees. They later worked on building their skills and abilities to advocate for their personal favorites.

“It was awesome,” shared second grader Avea Sellmyer (Chestnut Hill). “It’s really exciting when you have no idea what book they’ll choose for the award.”

Miquon students review potential Geisel award books. Miquon students review potential Geisel award books.


In addition to the Geisel Award winner, the Geisel Honor books were: “The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap,” written and illustrated by David Milgrim; “Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories,” written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier; “King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth,” by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers; and “Tiger vs. Nightmare,” written and illustrated by Emily Tetri.

“The whole process was a really empowering one for children,” Stippich said. “We had so many kids reading and getting excited about new books. In the end, Miquon students’ feedback about the eligible books was among the many helpful inputs to the committee’s final selections of the Geisel winner and honor books.”

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