In case you missed my shouting and celebrating about it on social media, I thought I’d share it here: The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem recently landed on the Sunshine State Young Readers Award Jr. list — and in some absolutely incredible company!
The Sunshine State Young Readers Award (SSYRA) program is run by the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). Every year, committees made up of Florida’s most passionate, hard-working school librarians and media specialists read hundreds of kids’ books and put together three lists: one for Grades 6-8, one for Grades 3-5, and one for all lower grades (that’s where the “Jr.” of SSYRA Jr. comes in). These lists are used across the state, in every county and pretty much every single school, to organize the following school year’s reading. Every school is going to do things a little differently, bringing their own creativity to how the books are explored and used, but when one of your books makes the list, you can be sure that you’re in store for several months of being flooded with tweets and emails about the incredible things librarians and kids are doing with your work.
I can say all this with such confidence because — it still feels a little surreal to say this — this is my THIRD time on the SSYRA lists. My first book, EngiNerds, was on the Grades 3-5 list a few years back, and just last year, the first book in my Geeger the Robot early chapter book series, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, was on the SSYRA Jr. list. Thanks to being on the list, I have made over a dozen trips to Florida in recent years, and have been lucky enough to meet and work with thousands and thousands of young Florida readers. I’m beyond thrilled that, with the first graphic novel chapter book in my Hunger Heroes series being on the list, I’ll get to meet and work with even more.
And I’ve said it before, and I’ll surely say it tons more in the future: but there is something special about the Florida literacy community, and about the librarians and media specialists that are the heart of it. They make a BIG DEAL about books, and not only because they’re book-lovers themselves, but because they understand what making a BIG DEAL about books can do for the kids they serve — that that’s a big part of helping turn them into book-lovers as well. Another thing: baked into the SSYRA program, evidenced every day all over the state in the way that schools and librarians are using the books on the lists, is the idea that books are, and can most powerfully be used, as launchpads. (If you’ve ever heard me present, you’ve definitely heard me say this before.) That books aren’t just there to be read — but to also serve as springboards, as sources of inspiration and motivation, as tools to propel their readers back into their worlds and lives with something they didn’t have before. Teaching kids this, showing them how this works and how it can be done — this is, I believe, one of the best ways to turn them into book-lovers and lifelong readers, and is one of the best things we can do in our work to prepare them for their futures. It’s also one of the core principles and guiding missions of my work.
All of which is to say: I’m overjoyed and honored, and so looking forward to another year working with Florida librarians, media specialists, educators, administrators, booksellers, parents, and — most importantly, as always — KIDS. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the SSYRA Jr. committee. Now, let’s get to work.
Learn more about the SSYRA program and FAME here.