To commemorate the rich picture-book legacy of Llama Llama series creator Anna Dewdney, Penguin Young Readers, Children’s Book Council, and Every Child a Reader have partnered to establish a prize in honor of the late author and illustrator, who died of cancer in September at the age of 50.
The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award will be given annually to a picture book, published in the U.S. during the five prior years (for the inaugural award, between 2011 and 2016), that is an outstanding read-aloud and encourages compassion and empathy. The award honors Dewdney’s life and work as a book creator and literacy advocate, and celebrates her commitment to reading with young children and getting books into the hands of as many toddlers as possible. With 10 million copies in print worldwide, the author’s own picture books have introduced millions of preschoolers to the joy of reading.
Dewdney’s editor, Tracy Gates, Viking editorial director, picture books, noted that the award’s focus on read-aloud books is well targeted to Dewdney’s talents and objectives. “Anna’s picture books are meant to be read aloud,” she said. “While editing books together, she and I would often read the text aloud so that we could hear the rhyme and rhythm of the words. Children respond to the sound of words, not just the meaning, and part of Anna’s mission was to give them fun words to hear and respond to. She would be so happy to know this award was being given in her honor, but more importantly, that it would help children, parents, and teachers find more books that are wonderful read-alouds.”
Librarians, teachers, booksellers, parents, caregivers, and children’s book bloggers who are 18 or older are encouraged to nominate up to five read-together picture books for the award. The deadline to submit titles for consideration is February 5, 2017.
The finalists – the five books that receive the most nominations – will be announced during Children’s Book Week next May. The author and illustrator of the winning book will share a prize of $1,000 from the Children’s Book Council, and Penguin will donate $5,000 in copies of the winning book to a school, library, or literacy organization chosen by the award winner or winners.
“Every Child a Reader and the CBC work constantly to support all those who inspire children and teens to enjoy reading, and that is something Anna championed on a daily basis,” said Shaina Birkhead, programming and strategic partnerships director of the CBC and Every Child a Reader. “We are so honored to further her mission through the creation of this award. When Penguin approached us about ways we could partner to honor Anna’s legacy, it became quickly apparent that an award announced during Children’s Book Week, in which Anna was often involved and which embodies her fundamental goals, was the perfect thing.”
Berol Dewdney, the late author’s daughter and a member of the Anna Dewdney Read Together Award committee, said, “I became an early childhood educator because I wanted to give others what my Mama Llama gave me. She empowered me with the same love and lessons of empathy we see in her books. Her influence led to my professional passion in nourishing the hearts and minds of little people in my own way. As a pre-K teacher in Baltimore, I deeply value the power of children’s literacy and look forward to celebrating it through this award.”