Thank you: An Open Letter to the Association of Booksellers for Children

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Dear Indie Booksellers,

I have been thinking all day about what I could write that might possibly express how truly grateful I feel about THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. winning the E.B. White Read Aloud Award at BEA last night.

First, I thought I’d say thanks for all that you do — for authors and teachers and librarians, for families like mine and kids like my students — every day.  You cheer for our books, help our kids grow into young adults, help our young adults find their places in the world, and make our communities stronger. I was a fan of yours long before I had a book in your stores.

Then I thought might tell you a funny story about where I was – making dinner, still dripping wet from my first lake swim of the season – when my agent called from New York to share the news. 

But the truth is, I can’t even think about this award for too long without getting tears in my eyes. Because reading aloud is a very big deal in my world.

When I was growing up, the youngest of four kids in a busy house, I was always on the lookout for someone who might want to read to me. When my parents, brothers, and sister grew weary, I’d wait in the kitchen for unsuspecting visitors.  As soon as the doorbell rang, I’d run for the bookshelf.  My parents still have photos of a preschool me, bringing piles of books to the table at their dinner parties, hoping to find a reader.

When I became a parent, reading aloud became a huge part of my life again. It doesn’t matter that everyone in our house is an independent reader now; read-aloud time is a treasured part of every day.  Curled up by the fireplace in winter. On the deck by the lake in summer.  And just before bed at night.  I have read the end of CHARLOTTE’S WEB aloud more times than I can count, and never without tears. I have read every word of all seven Harry Potter books out loud – twice – since my kids are five years apart and were ready for them at different times. And my daughter and I were reading Grace Lin’s WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, one of the other E.B. White finalists, the week the short list was announced. I’d picked up a signed copy at Flying Pig Bookstore after Grace’s author visit, when Elizabeth and Josie told me how much I’d love it.  They were right.

In addition to writing books for kids, I teach 7th graders. I read aloud to them almost every day.  No…they are not too old for read-alouds.  And yes…I do all the voices. We started our school year with Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME. The kids voted on their next read-aloud by class, so one group listened to Ann Burg’s ALL THE BROKEN PIECES, while two more heard Nora Raleigh Baskin’s ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL and one shivered its way through Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.  We just finished Laurie Halse Anderson’s CHAINS as a whole team read-aloud, and by the time the last page was turned, Isabel and Curzon felt as real to my students as their classmates.

Reading aloud in the classroom holds special magic for kids who aren’t always successful in school, kids who might not have had those experiences at home. A guidance counselor stopped by my room one morning to let me know that one of my kids was having a particularly rough day and probably wouldn’t make it through class. When he arrived, I could tell he wasn’t himself, and he came up to me right away to tell me he was leaving for the study room so he wouldn’t get in trouble.

 “I can write you a pass to go if you want,” I said, “but we’re reading for most of the period because we’re at that good part. Do you want to give it a try and see how it goes?”

 He nodded and went to his seat, and I kept an eye on him as I read. I watched the story change his afternoon. I watched his hands unclench and his face relax, and watched him leave in a better place than he was when he came. And it wasn’t my doing; it was Isabel and Curzon, I think, who made him feel like things might be okay, and it was those funny British soldier wives who made him laugh.  I saw him later in the day, too, and he still seemed to be doing all right.  I wasn’t surprised.  Stories stay with us.  They nurture us, long after the reading is through.

So anyway, indie booksellers, this is my big, long way of saying thanks.  That gold sticker with the spider web means an awful lot to this reader.

 With much gratitude,


110 Replies on “Thank you: An Open Letter to the Association of Booksellers for Children

  1. Sooooooo happy for you Kate! What a beautiful post. The world needs more teachers and writers and just plain wonderful human beings like you.


  2. Congratulations!

    I love the E.B. White Award. Congratulations Kate! That’s so great!

    Amy Timberlake

  3. Beautiful post 🙂 Huge congrats, Kate — I can’t think of a more deserving book! (And I used to read aloud to my teens — even the seniors — every day :D)

  4. *sniff sniff*

    Yay for books and YAY for reading aloud!! I hadn’t seen the actual sticker before – it’s BEAUTIFUL, and I’m sooooo happy your terrific and radiant (in Charlotte’s words) book will be sporting one. 🙂

  5. I was doing all right without tears until Laurie Halse Anderson posted her video of the awards ceremony last night – then it felt real. Thanks, Lisa!!

  6. YAY!

    I was fortunate enough to read THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z aloud to my class this fall and the students loved it! It was a fantastic read – they responded so well to the characters, laughed in all the right places, and expressed their indignation when Gianna was wronged.

    Thank you for giving us a lovey book. Your award is so well deserved. YOU ROCK!

  7. Lovely post, Kate. Many congratulations! I recently got a preview of a picture book due later this year, and I can’t wait to read it to my niece. Reading aloud is such a fun exchange.

  8. Congratulations!

    I’m beyond thrilled for you and your book. Your post has made me cry, but they are happy tears. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of read aloud. I plan on printing your post off and showing it to my team tomorrow if that is ok with you. Beautifully put.
    Katherine Sokolowski

  9. Kate, your letter got me all teary-eyed. Growing up, I was one of those kids who cherished the times when a teacher read aloud to us. Congratulations on winning the E.B. White Read Aloud Award!

  10. Just put up a wee post for you and Lisa and Sara (oh the good news today has brought). And emailed. And tweeted. And still, I wanted to congratulate you again here – and to thank you for the lovely story you included here as well.


  11. Yay, Kate! I know just how you feel. Big congratulations, girl. Some writer!
    xoxo Debbie Wiles

  12. Congrats to you again! Lovely post! I look forward to re-reading the HP’s aloud when I have g-kids old enough. I read the first 5 aloud to my son, and even once a campground full of kids.

  13. Yay Kate! I can say with confidence that the committee made the right choice on this. Gianna Z was my very first read aloud of the school year and I started it with my 7th graders the day after it was released. We loved the book and it is still one of my favorites! Yay! And it’s really fun to watch the video Laurie Halse Anderson posted of the award announcement!

    I love your story about the young man in your class~ it’s such a great illustration of the power of books and of read alouds.

  14. e b white award

    WOW ! Very powerful thank-you letter. You made us cry…….good tears. We are so proud to be your parents.
    Congratulations for this beautiful honor. love, mom & dad

  15. congratulations!!!

    This is such wonderful news Kate ~ it couldn’t happen to a nicer author! thanks, too, for the Broken Pieces mention…warmest wishes…Ann Burg

  16. Congratulations, Kate! I went to your panel on blogging at the nescbwi conference and I was so impressed by you. You have a lot to offer to the world: author, teacher, blogger, and speaker. I plan to read your book w/my daughter this summer! Congrats again!

  17. Congratulations! And thank you for your wonderful post on reading aloud – we all, no matter what our age, need more of that in our lives 🙂 -Nancy

  18. Congrats!

    Kate, Great letter. Couldn’t agree with you more about reading aloud. Congrats on your win!
    — Denise Doyen (fellow ABLit client, w/the other Jen)

  19. Re: Congrats!

    Thank you, Denise! (And also…isn’t almost everyone at ABLA named Jen?!) Hope our paths cross in person one of these days soon!)

  20. Thanks, Sarah! And thanks for the heads-up on the VCFA guest speakers for this summer – will definitely see if I can make it over for a day to visit!

  21. Congratulations Kate! What fantastic news and bless you for sharing read-aloud time with your students. My Mom read me the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series before bed, and it’s still one of my most cherished memories. Here’s to many more successes in the future!

  22. Beautiful letter from a beautiful writer/teacher/friend. I feel lucky to know you, as do so many others.

    Bask in the afterglow…it’s so well-deserved. 🙂

  23. Congratulations!!! And your post just brought tears to my eyes. My dad used to read aloud to me, and when C was younger, I read aloud to her. Scratch that – I still read aloud to her (she’s 15). Right now we’re reading BORROWED NAMES by Jeannine Atkins. 🙂 reading bonds.

  24. Congratulations, Kate. I won’t be surprised if some indie stores frame this lovely letter. You express the power of reading aloud so well.

    And that is one amazing sticker!

  25. I was directed here by . First of all, congratulations!

    Second of all – I love reading aloud, too. I loved being read to as a kid, and I love reading aloud to my two daughters now. One is on the cusp of learning to read, and one can read at a 3rd-grade level but still gets overwhelmed by longer books. I love doing the voices, I love seeing them get excited by a story. My daughters were both adopted from China when they were (respectively) roughly a year old. It was very plain neither of them had been read to before, as neither understood the first thing about paying attention to a book, flipping the boardlike pages, etc. My older daughter grasped the concept within weeks. My younger daughter took a good six months of concentrated effort on our part, before even the shortest stories held her interest. To have them both love books and being read to is a marvelous thing now.

    We are currently working our way through the 2nd Percy Jackson book, and as soon as that’s done I will – as promised – read the final HP book to them. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your story – and your story! Congrats again.

  26. Thanks for coming by – I love Jama’s blog, too, even though it always ends up making me hungry.

    The Percy Jackson books are great read-alouds, too, aren’t they? Hope you enjoy the last HP, too!

  27. You are such a remarkable woman! I am so glad you got the award. What you wrote made me cry.
    Peace and joy to you, peace and joy…

  28. Congratulations!

    Kate, congratulations on receiving this award. Your message moved me so much, and I love the “Terrific Book” sticker. You are an inspiration to me!
    ~Toby Speed

  29. I know I’m a little late in the day, but many congratulations on your award and I look forward to reading all about Gianna Z. And I love what you’ve written here about reading aloud. We’ve only read through the HP books once, but yes, it is an epic readaloud! There is something that breaks boundaries in reading aloud – we read together so many books that for whatever reasons, my two probably wouldn’t pick up on their own but clamour for when we’re reading them (like, for instance, we’ve just finished Oliver Twist) – and of course, there are books we go back to again and again – especially picture books that many would say they are “too old” for…

    And as for your story about your student…

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter.

    Marjorie (PaperTigers)

  30. Thanks, Marjorie – I agree with you that there’s a magic of reading aloud when it comes to bringing kids to books they might not otherwise choose.