I am so proud to be the recipient of the inaugural Mills Tanenbaum Award for Children’s Literacy for several reasons, because it not only honors me and my work and all children’s book authors, and also all of my illustrators, editors, and publishers, but by name it honors Gary Tanenbaum and Helen Mills, who are also honoring Reach Out and Read of Greater New York through their award, and its leader Traci Lester and her incredible staff. But this award also honors perhaps the most important group of all—the babies, toddlers and preschoolers who benefit from this amazing program. Additionally, this award honors the pediatricians and volunteers in the hospitals and clinics, who partner with Reach Out and Read and model for parents and caregivers the how wonderful and important it is for a child to have an adult read to him or her and then giving that book to that child to take home and keep. So the biggest thanks ever to Gary and Helen for your generosity and for honoring all of us who create books for babies and young children. I also want to give a shout out for Traci, Amy Sokel, and Asari Beale, who put in so many hours to make this night happen.
When I think of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, the word EARLY pops into my mind. Why? First, because Reach Out and Read understands that the way to foster early literacy and a love of books, is to start EARLY by giving a book to a baby about 6 months old and to continue to do so until age 5 when that child is off to kindergarten and ready, because of his or her love of books, ready to learn to read and to become a life-long learner and thinker and a life-long lover of books. Second, the word EARLY applies to this Reach Out and Read’s work with future pediatricians, building into their clinical training the Reach Out and Read model, in 187 sites in greater New York, virtually in every major hospital and clinic and health center in Greater New York. So how great is that? How smart is that? Great and Smart.
I have had the particular privilege of creating a picture book for young children about a creature, who is really a child, just as he or she gets into bed with its favorite book of the moment, the book disappears, and that child is totally frantic and of course, can’t go to sleep without it—just like many of us in this room when we lose our favorite book of the moment, we too, at least I do, freak out, and can’t go to sleep without it. And then, we, young children and adults alike, imagine all the terrible things that could happen to our book. We might even worry that MAYBE A BEAR ATE IT! I came up with this idea after having breakfast with Reach Out and Read pediatrician Perri Klass. This book was created as a regular trade book to be sold in bookstores, libraries, and online, and is illustrated by the talented Michael Emberley, and published by Orchard Books at Scholastic Press. But Scholastic, thanks to my marvelous editor there Ken Geist and thanks to the CEO of Scholastic, Dick Robinson, who is here tonight, thank you Dick, Scholastic created a special edition of this book for Reach Out and Read to be given out to children during their pediatric visits.
So I will close by reading only a few lines from MAYBE A BEAT ATE IT!, since each of you will receive a signed copy of this book in your gift bags as you leave tonight.
NO matter how old you are, I hope this book will help you out when you can’t find the book you love. Thank you everyone, I am so proud to receive this award.
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