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Origin of the Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar

Mary Calletto Rife
Mary Calletto Rife Photo by John Lacko.

The Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar grew out of a yearly observance of Children’s Book Week at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Each year beginning in 1919, the third week in November was designated as the time to celebrate good books for children.

In 1978, Mary Calletto Rife, then head of the Children’s Department of Kalamazoo Public Library, decided to expand the celebration into a seminar for librarians, teachers, students, and others with a desire to promote children’s literature. The seminar was renamed in honor of Ms. Rife after she retired from the library at the end of 2001.

Kalamazoo Public Library now leads a collaboration including Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, the Kalamazoo Public Schools, and others in the community in producing this seminar each year.

While the Children’s Book Council, the national sponsor of Children’s Book Week, moved their observance to the first two weeks of May in 2008, KPL continues to celebrate youth literature in November.

Writing for Teens, Tweens and Children

For a number of years, KPL also sponsored an annual Teen Literature Seminar. The Teen Literature Seminar and the former Children’s Literature Seminar have now been combined in one Youth Literature Seminar. The renamed seminar will now focus on authors writing for teens or tweens and children in alternate years.

Leading Authors and Illustrators

KPL has hosted such youth literature luminaries as Laurie Halse Anderson, Holly Black, Ally Condie, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Flake, Angela Johnson, Steven Kellogg, Ron Koertge, Kadir Nelson, Todd Parr, Jerry, Gloria Jean and Brian Pinkney, Jason Reynolds, Robert Sabuda, David Small and Sarah Stewart, Sonya Sones, Terry Trueman, Tasha Tudor, and Jacqueline Woodson at previous seminars.

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