Elementary school students in Florida are reading a book written by University of Lynchburg education professor Dr. Jeri Watts this month as they cast votes for a book award winner.
“Kizzy Ann Stamps” is on the short list for the 2015-2016 Sunshine State Young Readers Award. The book was nominated by elementary school librarians and media specialists, and the winners of the award are picked by students.
“It’s very exciting and gratifying,” said Dr. Watts. “I am thrilled to have the book chosen.”
“It’s exciting for me to think of a book that’s about Bedford County Virginia to be read by kids in Florida,” she added. Dr. Watts has talked about the book in videoconferences with classes in Florida as well as Massachusetts, where it won a spot on this year’s Massachusetts Children’s Book Award list.
“Kizzy Ann Stamps” tells of an African American girl in Bedford County, near Lynchburg, in the 1960s when she has to begin attending a newly integrated public school. The book consists of letters written to her new teacher. “She writes in the first letter that she doesn’t want to go to t? ;he new school,” Dr. Watts explained. “The rest of the book becomes a journal entries through that year.”
Dr. Watts thought of the book when she was a reading specialist in an elementary school and she saw two girls of different races go to the water fountain. One remarked that they would not have been allowed to use the same water fountain decades ago, and the other added that they could not have taken the same bus. “It occurred to me that that’s about all they would know about integration and segregation. Since I went to school during those times, I knew there’s a lot more to it,” Dr. Watts said.
Dr. Watts’ first children’s book, “Keepers,” was published by Lee and Low in 1997. Candlewick published “Kizzy Ann Stamps” in 2012 and will publish “A Piece of Home,” which tells the story of a boy from Korea moving to West Virginia, in June 2016.