on behalf of the MAE Award Jury
The MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens recognizes an outstanding reading or literature program for young adults. Learn more about the 2013 winner–you could be next!
Kristen Pelfrey, a teacher at Foothill Technology High School, won the 2013 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens with her program “Best Fiction (about) Young Adults Revolution.” She has continued the Revolution this school year, and spoke by email about her experiences with the MAE Award:
How did winning this award affect how you were viewed at your school or community? How did your students react?
My kids were not surprised at all. They were “Well, yeah, that’s cool” and then immediately made requests for books they want to read. I, on the other hand, went shrieking into the main office and danced down the hall with a copy of the notification email. The entire Underground Library is funded by grant money, and we always need more books. I think that winning this award has helped me get other grant monies. I asked for a matching grant from our parent organization, for example. People seem more inclined to award grants if they see how an organization like ALA/YALSA put the stamp of approval on it.
How did you use the MAE Award money at your library?
I used the money to buy more books. Authors who write about young adults are some of the best writers out there. And it’s been wonderful to give some attention to writers who are new on the scene, like T. Michael Martin. My students love THE END GAMES.
Your students read books from the Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Did you find that some books were more popular than others?
There really is a book for every kid. I do a lot of “speed-dating” with the books in the Underground Library, where a kid will come up and need a book, and I can ask a few questions and load the kid up with titles. I ask them to read each book for five minutes. Just let the story draw you in, is what I tell them. Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, anything by Andrew Smith, John Green, A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Michael Grant, Libba Bray, S.A. Bodeen–those books fly out. The DIVERGENT series by Veronica Roth and the LEGEND series by Marie Lu are really popular. But what is cool is that the books that may not have the big marketing campaigns–these books get a lot of attention in the Underground Library. The students talk about books and recommend them on our Edmodo community. So there is this whole tide of interest in books that don’t necessarily have a movie tie-in or a lot of publisher support.
Did any of the students send their thank-you posters or trailers to the authors?
The response from the writing community has just been amazing. Andrew Smith has taken the time to come to each BFYA Revolution Launch Day and be a guest speaker; A.S. King Skyped in last year, and will be making an appearance this year. Their brilliance and generosity bring me to tears. Many authors respond to the thank-yous the kids write, and this makes our collective heads explode. Daniel Kraus, who wrote ROTTERS and SCOWLER, received the book trailer my student did for ROTTERS and tweeted it to his followers. I can’t even describe the reaction of my student; we still talk about it. Denise Jaden, Andrew Smith, A.S. King–all have blogged about the Revolution. Having the authors participate brings such richness to the whole experience.
Any advice to librarians or teachers thinking about applying for this year’s MAE Award?
For librarians and teachers out there looking to apply for the award: Dare to dream. Whatever seems unlikely or impossible has a solution. Dream, and then make it happen.
Apply for the 2014 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens! Deadline is December 1. Applications and additional information about the award are available online.
This interview has been edited and condensed.