For nearly 40 years Inga Kromann taught literature to teachers in training at WSU’s College of Education. In fact, she led the charge in expanding the children’s book offerings from “a two foot shelf in Holland Library” of “50 shabby, outdated books” as she describes it, to a serious collection now housed in Owen Library and filled with children’s and young adult literature. She also helped expand education courses to include permanent classes in teaching folk literature, poetry, advanced study in literature, ethnic literature, and literature in the curriculum.
In recognition of her work and to encourage student teachers to think more about the role literature can play in their classrooms, Associate Professor Jane Kelley created an award in Kromann’s name. Students who write, illustrate, and produce their own books can vie for a $1,000 award and their own place on WSU’s library shelves. Kromann contributes to the prize money and to the cost of producing the book.
By breaking down the process of writing, illustrating, and designing a children’s book, the students may develop a strong sense what goes into a book that at once entertains and serves a purpose for its audience. One winner from a few years ago features a young girl learning about senses by exploring a rose garden with a blind woman. Another deals with a young person whose father is away at war and who confides her feelings to a firefly.
Two years ago, Jessica Peterson ’13 sat down to write and illustrate a children’s book about a little girl who couldn’t get to sleep. In the process, she managed to capture pieces of her own childhood in West Seattle. “We had been studying children’s literature and I had been thinking about what to write, and this just came to me,” she says. Peterson, who has been writing and illustrating little books since the fifth grade, took her character out on a nighttime ride through the city during which she saw familiar sights in a new light and acquired a following of animals along the way.
Peterson’s Washington childhood has filled her with great images and experiences, many of which she hopes to draw on as an elementary school teacher. Some of her favorite memories can be found in the woods behind her house where she and her younger sister Haley (currently attending WSU) and big brother Brodie ’12 would play capture the flag and pretend they in were a world far away from home. “When I was around 12,” she says, “we found this site that didn’t have a house, but there was a rope swing. We loved playing there. It was like a storybook in real life.”
Her own storybook, in which she captures that magic of exploration, won the Inga Kromann Book Award in 2012. “I’ve always liked writing and illustrating,” says Peterson, who has been substitute teaching in Seattle. “Winning just gave me some extra confidence to do it.”