Choosing Our Books
USA Book Selection Committee
Each year, the esteemed Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee, a specially selected panel of early childhood literacy experts, is responsible for reviewing hundreds of potential titles for inclusion in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Recent studies suggest participation in the Imagination Library is positively and significantly associated with higher measures of early language and math development. The Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee takes great care in choosing books that meet the different needs of children as they progress from birth to age five.
All books are published by Penguin Random House. If your book is published by Penguin Random House then it is already included in the pool of potential books to review. We can not accept unsolicited manuscripts, independently published books or books from other publishers for review.
USA Book Selection Committee
John Micklos, Jr.
Freelance Writer and Editor
An award-winning writer/editor and the author of more than 15 books for children and young adults. For more than 25 years, John served as editor in chief of Reading Today, the membership newspaper of the International Reading Association.
Now a freelance writer/editor, John’s books include four poetry picture books, a six-book, elementary-level series on the Revolutionary War, and biographies of Alexander Graham Bell, Amelia Earhart, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley, and others. His byline has appeared in national publications such as Highlights for Children, National Geographic Kids, and Modern Bride.
John has done featured presentations for the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, as well as for state reading groups in many states. He has done author visits to schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Indiana, and Maine.
John’s professional affiliations include the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the National Writers Association, the Education Writers Association, and the Association of Educational Publishers. He is a past president of the latter group.
National State Teacher of the Year organization President.
Red Bank High School
University of Tennessee – B.S. and M.S.
Retired school teacher
Dixie County High School – 1 year
Sevier County Head Start – 6 years
Sevierville Primary Preschool Summer Program – 13 years
Sevierville Primary – 25 years
Awards & Recognitions
- 1988 Sevier County Teacher of the Year
- 1989 Sevier County Teacher of the Year
- 1989 Key to the City of Sevierville
- 1989 Sevier County Dedicated & Exemplary Accomplishments Award
- 1989 Governor’s Outstanding Tennessean Award
- 1989 District Teacher of the Year
- 1989 Tennessee Teacher of the Year
- 1990 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math
- 1992 Who’s Who Among American Teachers 1992 Rotary Distinguished Service Award
- 2001 Sevierville Mayor’s Proclamation of Edna Loveday Rogers Day, May 25
Professional & Community Affiliations
- 1989 – present: Board Member of the Dollywood Foundation
- 2000 – present: Board Member of the Dollywood Foundation Library Committee
- 1989 – present: Board Member of the Sevier County Educational Foundation
- 1998 – present: Board of Directors for Berkshire Education Scholarship Foundation
- 1975 – present: Knoxville Council of Adoptable Children
- 2000 – present: Board of Directors Member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame
- 1989 – present: Delta Kappa Gamma
- 1989 – present: Kappa Delta Phi
- 1989 – present: National State Teachers of the Year
- 2000 – present: National State Teachers of the Year, President
- 1991 – present: Tennessee State Chapter of Tennessee State Teachers of the Year, President
- 2001 – present: Sevier County Retired Teachers Association
- 2002 – present: Advisory Board for the Public School Forum of East Tennessee
- 1996: Ambassador for US / South African Joint Conference of Education
- 1997 – present: Commissioner for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission
- 1981 – 2001: Career Ladder Level III Teacher
Ed.D. Vice President
Ed.D. Vice President,
Dr. Chaya Kulkarni is currently the Director, Infant Mental Health Promotion (IMP), The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto. Infant Mental Health Promotion is a coalition of individuals and professional agencies dedicated to promoting optimal mental health outcomes for infants in the first three years of life. Dr. Kulkarni provides leadership to research, professional education and public awareness activities at IMHP. Dr. Kulkarni was Vice President of Parent and Professional Education at Invest in Kids prior to joining IMHP as Director.
Dr. Kulkarni has also served as the Senior Policy Analyst and Researcher for the Office of the Official Opposition at Queen’s Park where she was able to influence and inform practices surrounding early childhood care and education. She has also worked directly with children and families in the childcare sector.
Dr. Kulkarni has lectured with Ryerson University and the Canadian Mothercraft Society, Seneca College and York University in the areas of early childhood development, infant mental health and early intervention. Dr. Kulkarni also sits on the selection committee for the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence.
Dr. Kulkarni received her B.A.A. from Ryerson University and attained her Masters and Doctorate in Education from the University of Toronto.
Jinx Stapleton Watson
Associate Professor Retired
Coordinator of Youth Services
Jinx Watson served 40+ years as a teacher and administrator in the public schools of Massachusetts and Tennessee. Her final position was as an associate professor of Information Sciences at the University of TN where she taught literature courses to aspiring librarians and school media center professionals.
In addition to her formal training and education, her children and grandchildren continue to inform her of ‘what works’ for early childhood reading interests!
Parents as Teachers
Diane Givens has long been an advocate for parent education, early childhood education and family literacy. From grant writer to family literacy director to training facilitator, Givens’s career has led her into many areas of the early childhood field. At Parents as Teachers, Givens oversees the department that coordinates the Family and Children Education (FACE) program with the Bureau of Indian Education, i-3 BabyFACE progam and Tribal Home Visiting. In this capacity, she directs and supports technical assistance and training to project sites in program implementation of home-based services.
For five years, Givens served as the coordinator of Parents as Teachers early literacy initiative. She provided support to programs in the field by developing and promoting early literacy training and products. She was a key player in the development of the National Early Literacy Panel, Early Literacy Parent Handbook, Early Literacy Tool Kit, and Early Literacy Professional Development.
Givens continues to partner with other organizations in the early literacy field to create and enhance materials, activities and promising practices to assist parents and educators in providing rich literacy environments in the homes of young children. She also participates in national and regional presentations and exhibits across the nation.
Givens has served on the International Reading Association’s Family Literacy Committee (renamed as the Early Literacy Committee); the National Center for Family Literacy’s Family Literacy Alliance; and the National Institute for Literacy, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, and U.S. Department of Education’s Partnership for Reading. She also mentored several Head Start programs through licensing and certification. She recently served as a St. Louis County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and mentor, supporting abused and neglected children.
Givens’ teaching experiences include early childhood, early literacy, cultural diversity classes at Webster University, University of Missouri–St. Louis and St. Louis Community College Field Base Program. She served as a special expert work group member for the Third National Even Start Evaluation, U.S. Department of Education, ABT Associates. Givens also provided technical assistance to Even Start American Indian Programs for the U.S. Department of Education with Research and Training Associates, Inc.
Givens holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in early education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has received specialized training in Constructivist, Reggio and Family Literacy. She is a certified trainer in ASQ-3 and ASQ:SE, Twiga Foundation Block Fest, and Parents as Teachers Foundational/Implementation Training. In her spare time, Diane enjoys working in her vegetable garden and reading to and with her niece, Nadia.
Former Children’s Book Buyer
Past Member Of Silver Birch Award Committee
Julie North-Bourque grew up surrounded by books. She worked in a bookstore for 20 years and was
the children’s book buyer for the last ten years of being there. There has been a real passion for
children’s literature in her life and worked with libraries and schools to know what books children were
excited by and what really worked for helping teachers engaging children in the learning process.
Julianne was on several CBC Radio Children’s Panel as an advocate. One year was part of choosing award
winners on the Silver Birch Award Committee. She has two daughters that she reads to nightly and loves
the way books can sweep you away.
Theresa E. Venable
Librarian At Langston Hughes Library
M.S. In Information Sciences from The University Of Tennessee
Theresa Evans Venable is the librarian in the Langston Hughes Library located at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Haley Farm in Clinton, TN. She also serves as the Programs Coordinator for CDF Haley Farm. Theresa oversees all aspects of the library’s functions, including acquisitions, collection development, and displays; she coordinates visits, readings, and other public programs and events held in the library; and she is responsible for the maintenance of a current, up-to-date, electronic cataloging system containing all library acquisitions. Theresa is also responsible for the ordering of all books sold by the CDF Haley Farm publications department during events held at CDF Haley Farm. She works with a twelve-member Langston Hughes Library Advisory Board, which is comprised of leading authors, children’s books publishers, and Information Sciences and Children’s Literature experts and professors from academic institutions around the country, to ensure that the library keeps up with 21 st century ideals and principals.
Theresa holds a B.S. degree in Elementary Education and the M.S. degree in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. She has thirty-one years experience as an elementary and middle school teacher having taught 3 rd through 6th grades in the Oak Ridge Schools and 6th grade in the Anderson County School System in Norris, TN. She is married to Dennis, and they have two adult children. Their daughter, Kamari Venable Greene, lives in Arlington, TN, with husband “Chuck.” Her son, Kevan, lives in Knoxville. Theresa and Dennis are the proud grandparents of Charles Jr., or CJ, and Avery.
The Women’s Political Alliance of Tennessee chose Theresa as a recipient of its 2015 award for leadership in child advocacy. Theresa was selected as the 2011 recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston Award, an annual recognition given by the Reference and Users Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association to the librarian who has actively promoted African American literature. Theresa enjoys reading, quilting, and traveling.