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Illustrating a Love for Reading One Contest at a Time


Oakland Park’s Elementary school students visited The Ethel M. Gordon, Oakland Park Library on May 6, 2023, where they were honored for their submissions to the 47th Annual Illustrate-a-Book Contest. The winners from each grade received a ribbon and their artwork framed. With schools and the library being closed due to the pandemic, the Ethel M. Gordon Library is still trying to find its footing and rebuild the relationships it once had. Thanks to The Friends of the Library and the Kiwanis Club for sponsoring the contest’s award ceremony, the connections have drawn closer together.
A gallery of wondrous worlds and characters from our youngest storytellers!

A Colorful History

Literacy has always been considered an important part of a child’s development, but books weren’t always written with the quality we are familiar with today. It wasn’t until the librarian of the Boys Scouts of America, Franklin K. Matthiews began touring across the United States there was an active demand to change the quality of children’s books for the better. Children’s Book Week was officially established in 1919 and has since been the longest-running national literacy initiative within the U.S.

Thanks to initiatives like Children’s Book Week, events such as the Illustrate-a-Book Contest were created and have spread the love of reading to the youth of America. The contest originated in 1976 and was initially used as a way to connect to Oakland Park’s youth and engage them in Children’s Book Week.

Resources from Every Child a Reader, the organization that promotes Children's Books Week.

Students Eager to Spread Creativity

The contest saw student participation from primarily two schools, Floranada Elementary School and North Andrews Gardens Elementary School. Where you would think it would be difficult getting young students to willingly participate in contests and events such as these, the Illustrate-a-Book Contest has no issue. The students are always eager to create pieces that depict the themes of their favorite books. The contest consistently sees the highest number of participants from Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.

“The contest is a great way to plant the seeds for a lifelong love of reading and provides an artistic outlet for the children that is also literature based,” according to one of the library’s representatives. Not only does the contest encourage Library usage and membership it gives students an opportunity to engage with their community outside of school.

Illustrate a Book contest: Fostering a love for reading and arts.

“The most rewarding part is seeing the children use their creative thinking and artistic skills. The contest encourages them to develop an enthusiasm for reading and storytelling and encourages them to translate their favorite story into a creative drawing,” the library representative shared. The City reaches out to local elementary schools and informs them about the contest to encourage student participation. Information about the contest is available in the library and is also given directly to local art teachers that have been known to incorporate the contest participation into their lessons.

Picking the Perfect Picture

It wouldn’t be a contest without a judge or two, and choosing the best art piece is a process just as thorough as any. Judges are often compiled of local artists and other art professionals that are sought out by the Youth Services Librarian. The students’ pieces are judged by a few elements; their artistic technique, originality, creativity, and their ability to encompass the book’s theme into their work.

The guidelines are simple, participants must be between the ages of five and 13 years old and they must create their own art.“We like to be as inclusive as possible and will accept entries from any local elementary school or middle-aged child,” according to the library representative.

A Quiet Home for the Community

Libraries are colorful on their own, from the written worlds on their shelves to the quaint and hushed atmosphere. But without the guests to wander the aisles of the libraries the color wouldn’t be as bright. The Illustrate-a-Book Contest feeds kids’ love of books and community. The Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library is a great place to nourish this. As one of the few municipal libraries in Broward County, you can find that there’s something for everyone.

The Ethel M. Gordon Library offers cultural and educational programs, and guests can enjoy not only the books but artist displays, live musicians, reading groups, storytimes, movies, and, of course, books illustrated by kids.


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