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 Edwards Award. Members on this committee serve an eighteenth month term. The committee consists of six virtual members of which three are elected.

The Edwards Award committee’s primary job is to select a living author or co-author whose book or books, over a period of time, have been accepted by young people as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives. 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 Deborah Parrot.

Name and current position
Deborah Parrott. Graduate Program Coordinator, Assistant Professor School Library Media, East Tennessee State University

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
My experiences strongly support the objectives and missions of working on a team, specifically, a selection committee. First, the selection and evaluation of literature and media for youth has been a common theme in my service resume. I had the pleasure to serve on the International Literacy Associations Children’s and Young Adult Committee for the term of 2013-2016. Additionally, I serve on the Andrew Carnegie Notable Video Committee for ALSC, 2015-16. Proudly, I am a member of the Tennessee Volunteer Book Award Committee, Young Adults Division, for 2015-16. All of these committees require evaluative skills as well as the interactive ability to communicate about literature through distance methods as well as the ability to discuss the criteria of literature with team members in a respectful and productive manner.

Additionally, I provide instruction in young adult literature for my Master’s and certification candidates at the graduate level. Therefore, I possess extensive experience with the analysis and evaluation of literature for teens. Having had over 17 years experience as a school librarian, building and developing collections for youth, I feel confident in choosing quality literature based on set criteria.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact the lives of teens?
Books not only allow us to visit faraway places vicariously; they also allow us to visit and connect with our innermost selves–our psyches and our spirits. When teens pick up a book, they are transformed by the private connection to characters who may be experiencing the same angst or problems. Teens frequently feel misunderstood by their parents, their teachers, their friends–even themselves. The teen years are a time of self-discovery and transition. Teen literature provides the ideal coping mechanism by which students may identify with characters that are similar, or to those complex characters that are very different. Our youth can explore the issues that negatively impact them in a private and soulful way through books. A book supplies an intimate connection between a teen and very personal, painful issues, thereby helping him or her to feel validated. The use of books for healing, or bibliotherapy, has been shown to be quite successful for countless teens enduring a wide range of challenges.

What are some ways award-winning titles can provide teens with a more expanded view of literacy?
The ALEX Award is a prime example of how award-winning titles supply teens with a more expanded view of literacy. The ALEX, an award given to books written for adults but hold special appeal for young adults, provides a natural trajectory into adult reading. Because these award-winning titles boast more complicated plot structures, complex characters, provocative themes, advanced vocabulary and abundant use of literary devices, they serve as a strong scaffold to adult literacy as well as to a more robust literary perspective and language proficiency. One specific example is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. The story of Rose Edelstein’s strange and magical gift that enables her to taste emotions in the food she eats is both metaphorical and abundant in adult, thought-provoking themes such as the lack of communication between human beings, desperation and loneliness.

Another example is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Thirteen-year-old Anna is painfully aware that she was conceived for the sole purpose of supplying organs for her gravely ill sister. Following multiple medical procedures and an internal conflict, Anna finally sues her parents for the rights to her own body. This is an example of an award-winning book ripe with mature themes for healthy debate and thought-expanding discussion.

Additionally, ALEX Award titles pave a pathway from the school library to the public library, thereby opening added literacy doors for teens. Due to the fact that school libraries generally receive more limited budgets, avid ALEX fans may be encouraged to visit the public library for titles on which the school library may lack. The school librarian and public librarian may even collaborate on special promotional activities featuring ALEX titles, foraging the trail to an enhanced literacy.

Describe a time when you’ve advocated for books to be more influential in connected-learning spaces.
On the Red Carpet at Your Library was a program that was planned at a rural high school in east Tennessee. The students attending this school are primarily of meager socio-economic means and student world experiences are quite limited. Some of the students have never traveled outside an hour’s distance from their homes. On the Red Carpet at Your Library promoted books which had been made into movies. Students read books such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Great Gatsby, The Fault in our Stars and other titles that had been turned into film.
The culminating activity was a “Red Carpet” activity during Teen Read Week, a replication of the Academy Awards in Hollywood or the “Oscars” in which teens dressed up as if appearing on the red carpet. They were photographed and interviewed based on the novels they read.

Students also acted out certain scenes from the book they read. ‘Oscar’ Trophies were distributed to teens that produce the winning book trailer based on their chosen book. Students were given prizes on how well they produced answers during their “interview” on the Red Carpet and other various activities during the week.

On the Red Carpet promotion’s goal was to provide teens with a chance to experience a fun, glamorous activity in connection with reading and media. Teens are effortlessly attracted to movies advertised on television as well as to media. By combining reading and media with the opportunity to participate in an out-of-the-ordinary, entertaining activity, teens acquired an interest in reading all books.

On the Red Carpet at Your Library sought to connect to all areas of the curriculum. The cosmetology department students participated by doing hair and makeup for the night on the Red Carpet; the English and journalism classes used their talents for interviewing the “nominees’ and writing about them in the school newspaper. The art department contributed by providing decorations, and the school photographer took photographs of the students on the red carpet. The history department participated by using literacy circles for books that had been made into films such as books that had been made into films such as The Last of the Mohicans. The event was filmed and the students had a wonderful time watching themselves on the red carpet. The event was successful and we feel that all students had a positive experience with books and media. Library circulation increased, needless to say.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
I am honored and humbled to be selected to stand on this ballot for the Edwards Committee. If successful, I will do the best of my ability to fulfill diligently the responsibilities of this committee. I believe that my 17+ years of experience as a school librarian—evaluating, selecting, and promoting literature for youth contribute to my qualifications. Plus, I have extensive experience working as a team to achieve goals and objectives.

Talk about a time when someone shared with you how a book written for teens influenced them.
One of the discussion prompts in my Young Adult Materials class is one in which I ask my
students to tell about a young adult book and how it influenced them or their students. Many interesting stories have come my way but the story that I will share is one in which I experienced personally in a school. It relates to The Best Little Girl in the World by Stephen Levenkron. In this novel, fifteen-year-old, Francesca has been the ideal daughter for her life. However, like many teens, she is critical of herself, particularly about her body image. She begins dieting and develops anorexia nervosa. One young girl confided to me that this book helped her understand her similar problem and prompted her to seek help for her own eating disorders. That was a great moment in reader advisory for me. This situation is one such example of how students may see themselves in literature and connect to difficult situations and to characters in their reading. Subsequently, the counselor and I collaborated together to use this book in a literacy circle to discuss the concepts of healthy body image. We must never forget the power of bibliotherapy for teens.

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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