After weeks of chronicling contentious or otherwise dramatic issues or events in this space, it seemed to me time to recall a positive instance, where infighting and political squabbling were not the center of the story. With that in mind, we travel back to June 11, 1993 — nearly 30 years ago this week — when the school system rejoined a prestigious national book program.
That year, Marblehead was just one of five school systems across the nation chosen by Children’s Book Council, Inc. to participate in the 1993-94 Children’s Choice book program. The program was described in a Daily Evening Item story as a cooperative project between the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council that collects students’ evaluations of recently-published trade books.
Marblehead was selected as the first community in New England to participate in the program during the 1992-93 year, and the Item story from 1993 credits Reading Program Administrator Phyllis Smith with leading the effort for Marblehead’s inclusion. The council, in selecting Marblehead for the second time, cited the “enthusiastic response of the faculty and students and efficient recording of last year’s evaluations.”
The program enlisted elementary and middle-school students from Marblehead, along with 10,000 students in five different regions of the county, to read and evaluate the top 20 percent of all children’s trade books published in 1992. With that, 3,000 hardcover books were set to be sent to Marblehead for evaluation before being added to the permanent library collections.
Smith described the program to The Item as a “windfall,” and noted that the town’s schools will have received 6,000 books through the program.
“The books are wonderful and include all genres,” she is quoted as saying. “Think of any author — Lois Ehlert, Giles Laroche, Katherine Paterson — and we’ll have their latest books. Think of any topic — dinosaurs, whales, Columbus, Japanese internment camps, health. Whatever the topic, we’re sure to have a new title.”
The program began in 1974, according to the council’s website, and has since “been a trusted source of book recommendations used by teachers, booksellers, librarians, parents, caregivers — everyone who wishes to encourage young people to read for pleasure — and children themselves.”
The program was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is set to be revived by the council for 2023.