Brenda Patterson Harris Named 2018 Frances H. Pletz Award Winner

MLA is pleased to announce Brenda Patterson Harris is the winner of the 2018 Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Service to Youth. The award is given annually to a Michigan library staff person who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of library service to youth, ages 0-18 throughout their career. MLA President Steven Bowers presented the award to Brenda at the Spring Institute 2018 Conference on March 23 in Grand Rapids.

Brenda is retired from the Flint Public Library, where she served as a staff member for more than 25 years. Throughout her career, Brenda’s passion for storytelling and children’s literacy, and dedication to serving youth in her community have made her an innovator in promoting the art of storytelling as well as early literacy education programs.

Starting in 1989, Brenda worked as a story teller with the Flint Public Library, bringing story times and library books to local preschools. During this time, she also worked with the Reading Partners program, teaching low-literacy parents skills to develop their children’s early literacy at home. She began work at the Flint Public Library in 1992, where she developed the story time program, Bookie Babies, a multi-session curriculum for families that models parent-child interactions and teaches parents how to develop early literacy skills in their children. This program is still in use today and has branched out into Pajama Story Time and Rhymes & Readin’ (for toddlers).

As a professional story teller, Brenda’s coaching has helped new children’s librarians gain confidence in presenting story time in exciting and educational ways to children of all ages and their parents. Over the years Brenda has mentored and trained many of the Flint Public Library’s children’s staff in story telling techniques and strategies. She has been a champion for diversity in library story times. Her interest in stories from all over the world inspired her and other members of the library staff to seek out children’s literature featuring many cultures and to share these stories.

Brenda has also been one of the primary planners and committee members for the annual Michigan Storytellers Festival. With Brenda’s leadership, the Festival has provided networking, training and performance opportunities for Flint’s local storytelling community as well as a workshop for children to learn the art of storytelling. For many years, the Michigan Storytellers Festival was a focal point for elementary education classes and children’s literature classes from University of Michigan-Flint where Brenda worked with the UM-Flint professors to teach and coach college students about the art of storytelling, including how to use it with children in the classroom.

“The work group chose Brenda due to her unwavering commitment to her community through literacy, storytelling, and selfless public service,” said Mike Golczynski, Spring Institute 2018 Frances H. Pletz Award Work Group. “She has left a legacy at the Flint Public Library that all librarians should aspire to. She is an inspiration and we are happy to cap off her outstanding career with this award."

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