New Children’s Book Committee Fellowship Develops Future Leader in the Field

In May, the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee (CBC) concluded its inaugural CBC Fellowship, a unique opportunity for a current student from Bank Street Graduate School of Education to deepen their knowledge about the world of contemporary children’s literature and gain insight into the committee’s review processes for its annual lists and awards.

Established to develop a future leader in the field who will become an advocate for the promotion of high-quality literature for children, Zach Libresco, GSE ’23, was selected as the first CBC fellow for the 2022-23 school year.

“The committee was fortunate to be joined by an inaugural fellow who is so deeply committed to their work and demonstrates such enthusiasm for children’s literature,” said Cynthia Weill, Director, Center for Children’s Literature. “The fellowship aims to foster a new generation of professionals who are committed to advancing literacy and a love of reading among children. We recognize the value the CBC can provide to aspiring educators and we are proud to offer the fellowship to a graduate student with a strong interest in the field and a vision for how the experience would enrich their personal and professional growth.”

During the fellowship, Libresco participated in various CBC activities, such as reading and reviewing books, attending meetings, including award deliberations, and assisting with procedural tasks like organizing books and entering reviews into the database.

“The CBC Fellowship was an incredible opportunity to learn how a group of people with extensive experience think about children and children’s literature,” said Libresco, who is a new graduate of Bank Street’s Childhood General Education Program. “I hoped that by reading a lot of contemporary titles, I would not only expand my understanding of children’s books, but I would also be able to better match students to ‘just-right’ books and craft better lessons. My knowledge of children’s literature has soared during my time with the CBC, and there is still so much more to learn.”

Inspired by this fellowship experience, Libresco completed a culminating Integrative Master’s Project in his Graduate School coursework that examined the question, “What Makes a Best Book?” This project, which prompts Bank Street graduate students to explore an area of interest in depth and synthesize and expand upon their graduate studies, drew its focus from the CBC’s annual list of recommended titles called the Best Children’s Books of the Year.

Throughout the fellowship, Libresco researched the question by interviewing committee members, attending over 50 hours of committee meetings and award committee meetings, and reviewing relevant literature.

“The themes that emerged from my discussions with committee members centered on representation in children’s literature, the appropriateness of content for children, and the changes in children’s literature over time,” said Libresco. “The conversations, for my thesis and otherwise, were invigorating. This group is smart, thoughtful, and caring, with so much experience and expertise—it was a pleasure to hear them talk about books and learn from them.”

Additionally, Libresco noted the committee’s collaborative approach and collective decision-making process in meetings, highlighting how this can be useful in a classroom setting where students and their individual voices are respected and valued. He also observed firsthand the importance of routines, time management, and periodic reevaluation of processes in this work.

“The program is in the spirit of Bank Street’s mission to provide students with experiential learning. Our hope is that fellows will take the knowledge they acquired from the CBC forward into their professional endeavors and in doing so, positively impact children’s experiences with reading and learning,” said Mollie Welsh Kruger, Supervised Fieldwork Advisor & Course Instructor, Bank Street Graduate School of Education, and Co-Chair of the Children’s Book Committee. “We look forward to continuing the program next year and providing this valuable opportunity for a graduate student to engage with and learn from experts in the field of children’s literature.”

The 2023-24 fellowship will begin in September 2023. After successful completion of the academic year and fellowship responsibilities, the fellow will receive an honorarium and, depending on availability, may be invited to become a member of the committee.

Funding for the 2022-23 fellowship was made possible through a donor in honor of a beloved former CBC member.

Applications are available now for Bank Street graduate students interested in next year’s CBC Fellowship.