Dozens of reading clubs from Kansas elementary and middle schools visited Emporia on Saturday for the 60th Annual William Allen White Children’s Book Awards held on campus.
Wendy Mass, author of “11 Birthdays,” and Diana Lopez, author of “Confetti Girl,” were both the guests of honor at the awards ceremony. Mass was the winner of the Grades 3 through 5 category, and Lopez was the winner of Grades 6 through 8.
Before the awards ceremony, activities were held for the children on the second floor of the Memorial Union. Emporia State students volunteered for many of the booths in the MU Ballroom, including a “silly science booth.” Mocha Yang, senior elementary education major, said they had a lot of fun setting up the booths and that it was creative.
“I had a lot of ideas for the ‘silly science’ booth,” said Lacy Jordan, senior elementary education major. “Kids don’t know how a lot of stuff, like things that glow in the dark, work.”
The WAW Book Awards were started by Ruth Caliarto, a former employee of White’s in 1953. Caliarto wanted the award to be decided by elementary and middle school students.
“Caliarto started the annual event to bring authors, books and children together,” said John Sheridan, dean of Libraries and Archives who also serves on the WAW Children’s Book Selection Committee. “Kids read these stories and become engrossed in these new amazing worlds, and then they get to meet the person who wrote their new favorite books. It’s like, ‘Hey, this book was written by a real person.’”
Sheridan said they started the program at ESU in 2002.
This year, over 40,000 Kindergarten through 8th Grade Kansas students participated in the voting process. The students were given a list of over 60 books to choose from and were required to have read at least two of the books before Oct. 6.
“Kansas was the first state to have a contest where children vote on the book,” Sheridan said. “More than 90 percent of the books that have won since 1954 are still in print.”
Community members also got the opportunity to ask the Mass and Lopez questions at a similar event on Friday night at the Red Rocks State Historic Site, a house located at 927 Exchange St. where White lived until his death in 1944.
“Even though this event is for the kids, we wanted to make it available to the community as well,” Sheridan said. “The authors got a tour of the William Allen White House after the (awards ceremony). We’ve never before had this much connection with the students and the community.”
Sheridan also said with Kindles and Nooks, more young people are reading compared to the last 10 years.
“We really appreciate everything ESU is doing for us,” Sheridan said. “We would like to get more ESU students involved. We have a lot of ideas for the future.”