2006 Newbery Medal Committee Member Explains ‘What a Responsibility’ Choosing a Winner Will Be

January 21, 2006—Children’s book authority Joan Kindig will be in San Antonio on Monday morning for the announcement of the 2005 Newbery Medal winner.As in previous years, she will await the announcement “like a kid at Christmas,” but this year will be different because she will also begin her stint on the committee that will decide the 2006 Newbery winner.

Having spent the past 15 years as a professor of reading and a school librarian, and much of her life with her nose in a book, she knows the true significance of the responsibility. “One of my colleagues has a little boy 10 months old, and I think “He may be reading the book that I choose,” and what a responsibility that is for me.”

As one of 15 committee members who will choose the Newbery, she knows there will be disagreement about what makes a great book. "We all bring our self to what we read, so that necessarily changes our interpretations of how powerful something is."

The same is true for a 5 year old, she says.It’s very common for a child to gravitate to a single book and read it over and over.Something about the story or the characters resonates, sometimes for a lifetime.Kindig’s favorite book as a child was "The Ugly Cur," essentially the ugly duckling story applied to dogs. Looking back she recognizes that the story resonated strongly because she was the middle child and felt overlooked (though as an adult she knows she wasn’t actually overlooked).She yearned for someone to suddenly notice how wonderful she was, to see her ‘hidden’ beauty and pay special attention to her."What you read as a child is really a part of who you are when you grow up," she explained.

That’s exactly what makes the choice of a Newbery Medal winner so important. "I've devoted my life to connecting kids with books in hopes that you can change one kid's path....I know what reading has meant to me in my life.Can you imagine — life without books would be a sad life.”

This weekend Kindig can be reached on her cell phone at (434)-242-5982 while she is attending the Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) in San Antonio from Saturday through Monday.She will be attending the ALSC press conference on Monday morning (8:00-9:15 a.m. CST) where the 2005 Newbery Medal winner will be announced. On Saturday afternoon (1:30-3 p.m.) she will attend the first meeting of the Newbery Medal Committee that will decide next year’s winner.

Kindig has read about 150 of the best children’s books published this year.Her picks to win this year’s Newbery are “Each Little Bird That Sings” by Deborah Wiles or “The Penderwicks” byJeanne Birdsall.For the Caldecott (best illustration) she likes “I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!” by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow, or “Show Way” byJacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott.

Unlike most professors of reading, Kindig spent 8 years as an elementary school librarian. Her lectures are broadcast to teachers and librarians across Virginia and beyond, and she travels the country discussing every facet of teaching children to read, from gender reading to motivating reluctant readers.

Kindig’s outstanding credentials have been recognized in a number of honorary appointments, including having served as the chair of the committee for the Virginia Reader's Choice award, which is the third-largest state award behind California and Texas. She's had two books dedicated to her, and another with her name hidden in the picture on the cover.

Kindig teaches children’s literature for the University of Virginia’s McGuffey reading outreach program, named for a giant in the world of teaching reading, William Holmes McGuffey, who wrote the nationally influential McGuffey Eclectic Readers series. First published in 1838, his Readers were adopted by 37 of the then existing states, from Maine to California, and it’s estimated that over 122 million were sold.