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The Graham-Kennett Collection of Children's Literature will educate for generations


As Dr. Jill Gilbert can attest, building a 5,000-item children’s literature collection was fun, but it wasn’t child’s play.

Her years-long, strategic effort to create a teaching resource for her own students also created a resource for generations of students and scholars. Now, thanks to her steadfast commitment, the Graham-Kennett Collection of Children’s Literature has come to the University of South Carolina Libraries.

“My parents and my grandmother read to me when I was little, and I always carried a book with me, but I really became interested in collecting children’s books when I started buying books for my two daughters,” said Gilbert (shown at left), an Ohio native who has a Ph.D. in children’s literature and has taught at several institutions, including the University of Toledo.

“In graduate school, I was fortunate to study with some of the leading people in the field at Ohio State University, including Charlotte Huck, Janet Hickman, Rudine Sims Bishop and Raymond Muessig. They provided wonderful models on how to teach children’s literature, and they shared great books with us from their personal collections."

“So when I began to teach and take books into the classroom, I thought it was important that my students see books of merit and that they see books from other countries. My collection includes prize winners from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the U.S., Spain, the New York Times, best illustrated, Fanfare, Horn Book Magazine, Caldecott, Newbury, Carnegie, Whitbread, some Dutch prize winners, even Norwegian,” said Gilbert, who loves to travel and bought books during her trips abroad. “I loved the opportunity to teach something that I think is really special.”

At USC, there is already a buzz about the newly-arrived materials.

“I’m really, really excited about this collection,” said Dr. Sara Schwebel (shown at left), an English professor whose specialty area is 20th-century U.S. children’s literature. “Jill is an old family friend and, after hearing about her collection for many years, I had the chance to see it about six years ago. It is an amazing collection that includes award-winners from around the world, and I immediately knew it would be a great fit for our library. In conjunction with a research professorship that will be established, it makes us a really rich resource for our students and faculty, especially in the areas of English, literature, library and information science, and education, and it makes us a destination for scholars doing research.”

Gilbert named the collection for her mother’s family and her late husband, George Kennett Gilbert, III.

“The books have gone to a wonderful place with wonderful people,” she said. “I know the books will be used for research, for classroom instruction, and for pure enjoyment.”

The collection resides in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in the Hollings Library.


Award winners from the Graham-Kennett Collection include:

U.S. book award winners:

Newbery Medal

Caldecott Medal

Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Miildren L. Batchelder Award

Michael Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature

National Book Award

The New York Times Best Illustrated

Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

Robert Sibert Informational Book Medal

Boston Globe Hornbook Award

Hornbook Fanfare

Spring Book Festival

SC Children’s Book Award

SC Young Adult Book Award

International book award winners:

Carnegie Medal (British)

Kate Greenaway Medal (British)

Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction (British)

Costa Book of the Year, formerly Whitbread Literary Awards (British)

Kurt Maschler Award (British)

Hans Christian Andersen Awards (Swiss)

Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava (Czech)

Bologna Children’s Book Fair Prizes (Italian)

Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards (Australian)

Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Awards (Canadian)

International Board on Books for Young People (Swiss)

Mother Goose Award (British)

Signal Poetry Award (British)

Smarties Book Prize (British)

Esther Glenn Award (New Zealand)