Janet Wells, Librarian at Rockcastle County High School, was recently appointed the State Coordinator of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award Program, the statewide children’s choice awards program for authors and books. Kentucky Association of School Librarians (KASL) President James Allen made the appointment at KASL’s March board meeting in Louisville.
Wells succeeds Dr. Jennifer Smith of Northern Kentucky University, who created and oversaw the KBA Program for 33 years. The original KBA award was presented in 1983 to author Chris Van Allsburg for Jumanji. In 1988, KBA was divided into two divisions, K-3 and 4-8. By 2001, the KBA program included K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grade divisions. A fifth division for Preschool students is in the process of being added to address all of Kentucky’s young readers. As a student choice program, only young people may vote for their choice of the top book from a Master List of ten books presented annually for their grade level. Students can participate in public and private schools as well as local public libraries and bookstores. Each book has been chosen by a committee of readers who look for quality literature to appeal to a wide variety of readers.
Wells’ responsibilities include overseeing the five grade level committees, working with the five grade level chairpersons to fill vacancies on the committees, compiling the Master Lists, filing board reports with KASL, and working with book publishers regarding book choices. She will also work with KASL’s webmaster to promote the KBA program and assist with the voting process each April, as well as working with the KASL Local Arrangements Chair who will invite one of the winning authors to be a luncheon speaker at the Kentucky Library Association/Kentucky Association of School Librarians Joint Fall Conference each September. Additionally, she will present programs at various library and reading conferences to introduce the KBA Program to teachers, librarians, and literacy professionals.
The 2015-2016 winners have just been announced. A record-setting 59,401 votes were cast this year. New Master Lists are posted in early April each year at www.kasl.us and voting opens the following mid-March with a final voting deadline on April 1st of each year.
Wells’ participation in the KBA Program began in 2002 when she promoted the 9-12 list with her students at the Rockcastle County High School Library as a fun reading incentive. By 2006, she had joined the High School Selection Committee and began presenting sessions at library conferences to introduce the High School Master List to librarians. Members on the selection committee read an average of 27.6 books of the 61 young adult titles considered for the 2016-2017 Master List and meet four times per year to discuss the books being considered. For the past two years, Wells has sponsored a KBA Book Club at RCHS, which allows students to read current KBA nominees as well as having a sneak peek at potential titles for the next list. Wells is completing her 31st year in education at Rockcastle County High School, serving the past 21 years as Librarian.
For more information about the Kentucky Bluegrass Awards program, go to www.kasl.us and click on the KBA link. Recent winners, current Master Lists, and other information can all be found there.