A local award with worldwide significance

One of the greatest things about the Evanston community is its public library system. With over 4,000 new library cards issued and 1.2 million books, magazines, movies, and DVDs circulated in just one year, the EPL has touched nearly everyone in some way. 

Whether you were raised by the ice cream gift cards of the summer reading program, if you find your solace in the teen-only loft space participating in the STEM and GSA activities in your free time, or even if you simply just love reading, the public library has become a beloved place within Evanston. On March 21, the library launched a new program to entice and educate young readers about nature and the climate crisis. 

“During the pandemic, a lot of people took stock of their lives and one of the things I took stock of was, ‘What am I doing to save the planet?’ We’re about to fall off the precipice here and what is this little librarian doing? And I thought, ‘I want to help kids, young kids, in particular, get connected to nature,’” said EPL library assistant Martha Meyer., Aand thus, the Blueberry award was born. 

The Blueberry award was created as a resource for preschool and elementary teachers to use to find new, educational and powerful books that could be used to help better their lessons relating to nature and our planet. 

“I find that teachers tend to go back to the same books over and over again because they don’t have time to search through all the new ones,” Meyer said, “So I made it my job to make sure the kids won’t miss out because their teachers don’t have time to be a librarian and read every new book in order to find the best one.”

Through the Blueberry, Meyer and her committee of experts in the fields of children’s literature, neuroscience and marine biology, as well as Evanston’s own city sustainability coordinator, have been able to spread their 25 honor books, 6 changemakers, and the powerful winner of the 2021 Blueberry award, How to Find a Fox, nationwide. 

How to Find a Fox, written by Kate Gardner and photographed by Ossi Saarinen, was able to take away the title of the first ever Blueberry award winner because of its remarkable photography and intergenerational appeal. 

“You can approach that book from almost any age and learn something about foxes. But it’s accessible to three year olds. And that [accessibility] seems like a miracle to me, that you could be presenting ideas that are sophisticated enough that adults want to learn about them, and yet you’re doing it with language that is accessible to three year olds,” Meyer said.

Meyer and the rest of the Blueberry team have tremendous hope for the future of the Blueberry and what it could mean for climate education in Evanston and beyond. 

“Kids are suffering from the mess that we’ve created. TAnd so they deserve to have the very, very best information, the very best books available to help mitigate that anxiety by giving them clear science-based direction on what would make the most effect,” Meyer said. 

The Blueberry award is one of the many wonderful things that the EPL has implemented as a way to have children fall in love with the worlds of reading and nature. Because after all, “you don’t save something unless you love it.”