Award-winning author Gail Gibbons of Vermont has taught children about the world and how things work through the more than 170 nonfiction, informational books that she has written and illustrated.
Now her work has been recognized with a new, national book award created through the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development. Gibbons was recently awarded the first annual Correll Book Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Informational Text for her 2011 book, Gorillas, which is about Africa’s wild gorillas.
The award was made possible by a donation to the College of Education and Human Development by the Pete and Ada Lee Correll family, who share a deep commitment to the importance of early childhood literacy, according to Susan Bennett-Armistead, a professor of early literacy education. The donation established a professorship, which Bennett-Armistead holds, and programs to help broaden the scope of early childhood literacy in Maine and the nation.
Bennett-Armistead said Thursday that the college decided to establish the award to let “the publishing world know that young children do indeed like informational text and not just stories.”
Informational text differs from nonfiction in that its primary purpose is to inform about the natural and scientific world, Bennett-Armistead said. These types of books include charts and graphs, glossaries and indexes. They’re written in a timeless manner and by using general nouns, such as “dogs” instead of a dog character with a name, she said.
Gibbons has written and illustrated books about dozens of topics, including tornados, hurricanes, ladybugs, snow, coral reefs, deserts and dinosaurs over a long career. According to her website, she has always had an insatiable curiosity and she created her first picture book at age 4.
“I was always asking my parents questions. In fact, I probably drove them crazy, because I was always saying, “Why?” “What?” “What?” You know, that was just the way I was,” Gibbons said during an online video interview with Reading Rockets.
Bennett-Armistead said that Gibbons’ book was chosen from 40 submissions. The panel of judges, which included educators and librarians from around the country, noted that the book’s format provided early learning educators with lots of ways to use it in the classroom.
“It was a nice example of informational text that can be nonlinear,” she said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.