Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 15 through April 22, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2016 YALSA Governance and 2018 Selection Committee candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2018 Printz Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of nine members including a chair. Four members and the chair are appointed and the remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Printz Award committee’s primary job is to select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book. A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot and YALSA Election FAQs here.

Today we have an interview with Kathy Burnette.

Name and current position
Kathy M Burnette, Media Center Director, The Stanley Clark School

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I’ve worked on both our state’s Middle School and High School awards committees. I was also on the YALSA 2014 Excellence in Nonfiction Awards committee! One aspect of being on a committee is evaluating literature based on the award’s criteria. It requires developing a shared definition of what each criterion means and then agreeing on which books most represent what we have agreed on. All while keeping the intended audience in mind. Committee members were also responsible for bringing books to the table so that others could read and discuss them. I’ve also been a school librarian for about 11 years. An essential part of my job is evaluating and selecting books to support teachers in the classroom and for the recreational reading of students and staff.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact the lives of teens?
Books can provide a safe haven for teens as well as place to live vicariously. Reading about a student with an eating disorder to could lead teens to recognizing a problem they have and directing them towards some possible solutions. Books help teens feel less isolated. Knowing someone understands what you are going through, even if that someone is fictional, relieves some of the pain. And this is not just for teens. Many of us read to find the answer to “is it just me?”. Books are a place to escape from where other people are always directing your life.

What are some ways award winning titles can provide teens with a more expanded view of literacy?
Award winning titles expose teens to books they may have missed in genres they may not read. We tend to get our recommendations from people who read similar books. Literacy is then defined for us with these few titles. Lists of award winning titles can range in format, genre, and even page number. You can find books like the graphic novel American Born Chinese, the classic reimagined Going Bovine or the short but powerful First Part Last. These books have all won the Printz award and each offers a unique insight into what it means to be in this world. The experience of reading these books exposes teens to a variety of great literature which in turns expands their definition of literacy.

Describe a time when you’ve advocated for books to be more influential in connected learning spaces.
When I worked as a middle school librarian, I spearheaded a One Book, One School program. We’d already established a great English program with more contemporary selections but students we were still losing readers. My goal was to get more students reading by choosing books, not for their “lesson” value but for the pure joy of reading. I assembled of team of 5 people each person represented a diff subject and grade and we got to work. The first book I chose was the Maze Runner. I’d read it as part of a book fair promotion and thought it would be great. We got the PTO to donate money for prizes and our principal found money in the budget for a book for each student and staff member. Teachers were given the book a month in advance to have time to read the book and decide how they could promote it in their classes when the time came. We created trivia questions for teachers to read in their classes, a weekly on-air quiz show competition, and a battle of the book. We also had an art contest and a writing contest. We advocated for a change in our school schedule for the month that would allow a daily reading time and had a parent come in over spring break to decorate our lobby in anticipation of the big reveal. The event was such a huge success that the school has had 4 more OBOS program with two of them culminating in author visits. One year we did a school wide scavenger hunt based on clues from the book. Our schedule was even permanently changed to incorporate the reading time because other teachers saw how valuable it was to students and even gave the teachers time to read more.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
I am a Young Adult book and teen fan through and through! I not only hosted a Mock Printz Award book club for teachers at my former school but I also founded the Goodreads Mock Printz Group in 2010. Although I’m no longer a moderator, I”m still an active member! I’ve been a Cybils judge in YA Non Fiction, YA Fiction, and YA Speculative Fiction. I’ve coanalyzed Young Adult books on my blog under the banner Batty About Books. Part of my job is selecting books for our library which include Young Adult books. We have a small space so each book must have much to offer and almost all new books are read by me before purchasing.

Talk about a time when someone shared with you how a book written for teens influenced them.
The most talked about books within my friend circle are Speak and Marcelo in the Real World and, of course, any book by Judy Blume. Many adults my age didn’t grow up with Young Adult books, and definitely not books that tackled date rape, autism, or any serious issues. Some wish that they had Speak when they were going to High School and read it with their students. They believe it offers students an space to speak about issues we keep under the rug. Most say that the book stayed with them. I’m told that Marcelo in the Real World was a “Grisham like page turner that also explores deep spiritual issues. It’s so beautiful.”

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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