Kaywell Award Winners Named

The award, presented to young adult authors and advocates of the genre, is named after a USF College of Education professor.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 3, 2013) – The first two recipients of the Joan F. Kaywell Book Award – named in honor of a University of South Florida professor – have been recognized for their contributions as young adult authors and advocates of the genre.


Laurie Halse Anderson


Chris Crutcher

Chris Crutcher and Laurie Halse Anderson  were named inaugural winners “in honor of their body of work as young adult authors and advocates,” according to The Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE), in keeping with its stated purpose:  “The award will be presented to a selected title of young adult (YA) literature which clearly exemplifies the literature that Dr. Kaywell has championed throughout her career.....literature that saves lives!” 


FCTE created the Joan F. Kaywell Book Award. Kaywell is a professor in the USF College of Education.


A member of the Department of Secondary Education English Education faculty, Kaywell has taught at USF for more than 25 years.  She has won several teaching awards in her own right and is the driving force behind the Ted Hipple Collection of Young Adult Literature in the USF Library Tampa. 


“This collection houses roughly 3,000 autographed works, including manuscripts, advanced reader copies, first editions, and subsequent paperbacks,” she pointed out.  “I established this collection in honor of my mentor, Dr. Theodore Hipple, who was a founding member of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ALAN).”


Kaywell was just named the recipient of the ALAN Hipple Service Award in December. Kaywell has served ALAN as its president, as well as membership secretary and newsletter editor.


Next year the Kaywell Award will be given to Ellen Hopkins and Walter Dean Myers, whose work also exemplifies the type of literature that warrants this type of recognition.


“I think this is pretty cool if I do say so myself,” Kaywell said of the award in her honor. “And I’m not even dead yet!  Often people get recognized after they pass away, so this is a joy for me to witness these wonderful authors getting recognized for writing the books that have the potential to save kids’ lives.”


A young adult novel reviewer, Kaywell is published in several journals, including “The ALAN Review,” the “Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy,” and “Signal.” The author of “Adolescents at Risk: A Guide to Fiction and Nonfiction for Young Adults, Parents and Professionals” and trade book, “Dear Author: Letters of Hope,” she has also edited two textbook series: “Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics” and “Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Various Issues.” 


At the core of Kaywell’s interest in young adult literature is the belief about the pivotal role teachers, authors and their books play in children’s lives.

“Teachers and authors are often the unsung heroes of children.  It takes a teacher to put the right book at the right time in a child’s hand; it takes the authors to be able to say what needs to be said so an adolescent can understand it.  While teens are escaping from life’s struggles, they are realizing they are not alone and are also learning ways to respond to life’s challenges in constructive ways.  The added benefit is that they are also increasing their literacy skills which will serve them well into adulthood,” she said. 


FCTE is an organization devoted to “ensuring that all students have the opportunity to experience the best practices in teaching” and it provides professional development opportunities for its members which it prides itself on being “committed and caring.”  FCTE publishes the “Florida English Journal” and a newsletter for its members as well as hosting Connected Community and Facebook websites.


There’s an FCTE Joan F. Kaywell Award Committee that selects the recipients in honor of their work as “the book that best represents an adolescent’s overcoming a situation – not of his or her own making – in such a way to provide significant insight and hope to a reader.” 


Leading the move to create the award, FCTE President Kym Sheehan, secondary literacy specialist in the Charlotte County Public Schools, felt there were many reasons to honor a colleague who has become a friend with a tireless work ethic she describes as knowing “no day or time.”

“Joan's selflessness and hard work supports not only educators, but also students from all walks of life,” she said. “This award is about uplifting the downtrodden by letting them know they are not alone. Literature does save lives. It is this philosophy that Joan embodies. Her individual work in classes, her work creating the Ted Hipple Collection, and her work spreading the word that we need to reach all students where they are at a particular time in one's life.  She is not only an amazing educator, she works to save lives on a daily basis.

“Providing this award honors Joan's body of work with YA Literature and saving lives as well as the body of work and single works of individual authors who write to save lives and honor diversity; I believe it also honors those that need and read YA Literature.”

Sheehan also notes Kaywell’s contributions to the organization they both serve.


“Joan has been a catalyst for the Florida Council of Teachers of English over the years. She has gone through the board chain twice and filled in as needed. This requires years of dedication. She is an individual who keeps giving of herself for the good of others, and we at FCTE have benefited from all her efforts. She has managed to help keep us together in times of trouble and provides so much learning for not only the pre-service teachers, but also supports her peers and colleagues who work by her side.”

The award came as something of a surprise.


“Joan was truly humbled and really thought we were kidding when we came up with the Joan F. Kaywell Award,” Sheehan said. “Once the shock wore off, she was so appreciative and moved by this honor. I believe there is no better way to honor her life's work.

“As an organization that supports the English Teachers of Florida and the students they teach, FCTE is privileged to provide such an award.”  

 For information on the Joan F. Kaywell Book Award, please contact Lisa Scherff, at escherff@admin.fsu.edu.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.