42nd Annual KPL Youth Literature Seminar

Featuring Award-Winning Authors Jewell Parker Rhodes, Grace Lin, Kelly Baptist & Ed Spicer!

Friday, November 8
9 am–3 pm (check-in begins at 8 am)
Fetzer Center, WMU Campus

KPL Event Page for Registration

My Community, My Story

What is our community’s story? Do we have a community that is not only literate but loves to read and shares the gift of reading with others?

Everyone knows that reading is important. Studies have shown that children who do not develop an early love for reading and cannot read at their grade level or above are far less likely to become successful adults. That is why libraries and schools across the country continue to dedicate so much time and resources to early-childhood literacy initiatives.

In fact, beginning in the 2019–20 school year, Michigan third-graders who are not reading at grade level will be retained as part of the Read by Grade Three law signed by former Governor Rick Snyder in 2017. Since the passing of this law, Michigan teachers have been prioritizing literacy-focused instruction and coaching to prepare students to meet this requirement.

While their efforts are commendable, it is not solely the responsibility of teachers to ensure our children are proficient in reading. The entire community must prioritize early childhood literacy and support children at every stage as they grow their reading skills. If we want our community story to reflect not just proficiency, but a true passion for reading, then we as a community must lead. But how?

This year’s KPL Youth Literature Seminar is dedicated to providing community members with the tools and resources they need to write their own story—the story of a community that reads.

Speaker Bios and Themes

KPL is proud to welcome award-winning authors Jewell Parker-Rhodes, Kelly Baptist and Grace Lin, as well as certified Reading Specialist Ed Spicer to lead the discussion on the community’s role in prioritizing childhood literacy.

Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes was a voracious reader as a child and when she discovered there were novels by African Americans for African Americans she knew she wanted to be an author. Her presentation will focus on her book Ghost Boys and how bearing witness can encourage cultural change.

Grace Lin

Before Grace Lin was an award-winning author and illustrator, she was the only Asian girl (except for her sisters) in her elementary school. That experience, good and bad, has influenced her books, including her 2019 Newbery Honor Book A Big Mooncake for Little Star. Grace will share with us how writing children’s books helped her embrace being an Asian American.

Kelly Baptist

Educator and author Kelly Baptist is the recipient of publisher Lee and Low’s New Voices Honor Award for her forthcoming picture book The Electric Slide and Kai. In her presentation, “Community and Story,” Kelly will talk about how each student, each teacher, each community has a story behind it and that paying attention to those stories can change our perceptions and how we move forward.

Ed Spicer

Ed Spicer retired after seventeen years in his first grade classroom but has not slowed down! Over the years Ed has served on many book award committees for the American Library Association and other reading associations. He will share his expertise with recently published titles for young people that help build a community of readers; Ed’s booklist will be included in your conference folder.


  • 8 am: Registration begins
  • 9 am: Welcome
  • 9:15 am: Ed Spicer
  • 10:30 am: Grace Lin
  • 11:30 am: Lunch and Book Signing
  • 12:30 pm: Jewell Parker-Rhodes
  • 1:30 pm: Break
  • 1:45 pm: Kelly Baptist
  • 2:45 pm: Book Signing


  • $40 (includes lunch)
  • $20 for college students (with valid ID) with lunch


Scholarships are available for both adults and high school students interested in attending. For more information, please contact JillL@kpl.gov.

About the KPL Youth Literature Seminar

Since its founding in 1872, Kalamazoo Public Library has played a critical role in providing the tools, materials, programming, and support that teachers, parents, and caregivers need to cultivate young readers.

The KPL Youth Literature Seminar is designed for Pre-K and K–12 educators, daycare professionals, child and youth development administrators, students focusing on early-childhood education and/or literacy, parents and caregivers, and anyone with an interest in supporting and promoting childhood literacy.

Origin of the Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar


The 2019 KPL Youth Literature Seminar is sponsored by Kalamazoo Public Schools, Western Michigan University Libraries and Bookbug/this is a bookstore.

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