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A Complete History of the Award

By: Sally Teresinski and approved by Marion Archer

Our "kid" was born in 1973.

The birthplace of the first child in this family of Golden Archers was at the Educational Materials Center, a curriculum library, and a department of the Forest R. Polk Library on the UW-Oshkosh campus. The Center held print and non-print media, that were cataloged, processed and serviced in the EMC. These collections were open to the entire campus, but used heavily by student teachers and librarians. We gave orientations to methods classes by subject areas, grade levels and materials - sample texts, curriculum guides, DPI bulletins, pictures and all the audio visual materials that began as collections in me main library. As a demonstration center, it was visited by teachers in K-12 schools. Mrs. Archer and I shared the administration of the department for three years.

Earlier Mrs. Archer had been head cataloger in the main library. She was an experienced teacher and an established Wisconsin children's author. The juvenile literature collection, placed in the EMC at the time that the library science masters program was established in 1964, was growing. Similar to a school library at the time with all work related to the service done in the department, we were wildly busy all the time.

Mrs. Archer also taught children's literature and always returned to the EMC energized by discussions with her students. On the way of the Golden Archers conception, her lesson had included children's books awards. Her students had questioned the whys of adults selecting books for children, and the Caldecott and Newbery awards were included. It was at that point that Mrs. Archer said, "Let's do a Harriet, the Spy kind of award!" The idea was mulled over and even after the blood cooled, the idea was alive. Awarding a deserving author who would be selected by children of Wisconsin was set into motion. As teachers and librarians we were aware that children, frank in their criticism of liking or not liking a book, would react positively to this idea. This was affirmed in Mrs. Archer's travels about the state as she had spoken with over 5,000 children. The award gained flesh after much discussion between us, and then with the Polk staff and the library science faculty.

Helen Wahoski, Director of the Library. in her service outreach, heartily approved the EMC as a sponsor for the award. In cooperation with the School Of Education and the Library Science Department, the Center, in providing materials, presentations and services to practicing teachers and librarians, teachers off-campus and faculty, would build a closer relationship with Wisconsin students, teachers and librarians, and with UW-Oshkosh.

The mechanics of the program as we wrote in the original proposal to the University read: "We propose to invite all children, 4th through 8th grades, to keep a record of the books they have read this school year, among books published from 1970 through 1973 (books by Marion Fuller Archer being automatically ineligible ). The award is to be given on the Friday of Book Week, mid-November, 1974. [To finance the award] Mrs. Teresinski and Mrs. Archer are each contributing $50, (fifty dollars) making the award $100., rather than just a certificate, in order to give it substance--and we hope 'national visibility"." In 1975, Mrs. Archer contributed the award money from her royalties, and continued to support the award financially. A fund was set with the UW-Oshkosh Foundation. This announcement appeared in The Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, Thursday, May 16, 1974. "Plans are being made with the aid of the UW-Oshkosh Foundation, to continue the award indefinitely with the hope of bringing books and children and librarians and writers together in an increasingly rich and meaningful relationship. -- H. Wahoski".

From the original proposal, "The award is to be called: EMClUW-Oshkosh Golden Archer Award, taking its inspiration from that bit of Longfellow verse: I shot an arrow into the air; It fell to earth I know not where'. The author .....-- who captures the children's enthusiasm is the "golden archer" deserving this award we propose". The proposal concludes: "We feel it will be of long-range advantage to Polk Library and UW-O centered. It is our hope that our proposal meets with your approval so that we may present our idea at the Wisconsin Library Association's Children's Section meeting the first Sunday of May at Baraboo, to solicit their help to get Wisconsin children started on our project before the end of this spring term".

With the help of DPI's School Directory, we sent letters to all 4th - 8th graders in all public schools in Wisconsin with the announcement of the program, directions for participation and criteria for selection. This mailing was sent in the spring; reminder notices were sent in August asking that book selections be submitted to the EMC by October l, 1974.

Children were asked to select a "best book" with these criteria: 1. Characters you never forget. - 2. Plot that is so exciting it keeps you reading to the very end. - 3. Place described so beautifully that you feel as if you are there. - 4. Theme so important that it makes you live the book as you read. - 5. Style: a story told so well that the book sings on in your mind ....

The program was launched. A fervent wish with us at the beginning of this venture was that winning authors would flock into Oshkosh to be received by happy readers. This didn't happen immediately. Judy Blume, the first of the Golden Archer family greeted us by telephone. The celebration during book week took place among us on campus. Thomas Rockwell, our second winner, could not Visit. He, however, did assure the children of Wisconsin that worms weren't hazardous to their health in their selection of his How to Eat Fried Worms. We understood from Mrs. Archer s the "ups" of the love of writing for children, the "downs" of the shoe box of rejection slips and finally the gratification of recognition from readers for excellent writing. This Mr. Rockwell affirmed in his letter: "Sometimes publishing a book is like dropping a rock down a well and waiting to hear it splash...and waiting and waiting...and waiting some more...until finally giving up and going back to the typewriter for another rock". The first two winning authors were so enthusiastic about receiving recognition from children themselves, that we were encouraged to continue the program.

To this date, fourth to eighth graders were voting annually. Letters from teachers and librarians in kindergarten through grade three began to tell us that children at these levels, too, wanted a hand in the voting. As a result, the Little Archer, picture book award, was born. Our second "kid". Arlene Mosel for her story and Blair Lent for his pictures in Funny Little Woman won the first Little Archer in 1976. Monetary reward included $50. to each the author and illustrator.

The Golden Archer in l 976 was Florence Parry Heide with The Mystery of the Bewitched Bookmobile. This year also marked the first occasion when the winners of the awards accepted in person. At a reception at the Pollock Alumni House, Florence Parry Heide and Arlene Mosel met with children from various schools, teachers and librarians, to share their ideas on writing, stories and characters. The same day, the women met with library science students in seminar. It was a glorious day, bringing together authors, children, teachers and practicing professionals. The 1973 idea was a good one.

Hours of work go into preparation of this kind of endeavor. Library student aides and students in library science program experienced the activities that were necessary to fulfill each year's program. We had good support from the staff and faculty; They took interest and delight in the development of the program.

Life goes on but it also changes. New administration came into the library and there was a renovation of philosophies and services. Mrs. Archer retired from her position at Polk Library in the fall of 1975. The award program continued as a Part of the EMC service. Mrs. Archer volunteered her time to help me with the administration of the award. The following year I resigned my position. We both knew that the awards Program should continue, to promote excellent writing with children pointing the direction.

The UW-Oshkosh Department of Library Science became the new sponsor. A committee of those faculty was established. As a school librarian at a nearby high school, I agreed to continue working with the committee, and completed the correspondence to winning authors. At that time the winners won the money award, as well as certificates. First winners with the new family, in 1977, were Golden Archer Beverly Cleary for Ramona the Brave and Socks, and the Little Archer, Bill Peet, for Cyrus, the Unsinkable Sea Serpent. Both authors replied with delightful thanks. Mrs. Cleary, in Carmel, would spend award money on two items: an antique brass bowl the right size for her favorite flower, nasturtium, and an amber glass, blown by a friend, for her to remember the golden part of the Archers. Bill Peet had fond memories of time spent on a Wisconsin farm, and fishing in Polar Lake. Both authors hoped that Mrs. Archer would continue to work with the program.

In September, 1978, the Library Science Department, in a "Letter to the Alumni", announced that it would co-sponsor the Golden Archer awards program, and that the award would be given at the Fall Conference Beginning 1979. Support and monetary donations were requested. On January 17, 1979, I met with the LS Golden Archer Committee: Dr. Eugenia Schmitz, Dr. Norma Jones, Dr. Shirley Wilbert, Mrs. Marlene Krueger, Miss Helen Wahoski and Mr. Michael Brandt. Discussed were the Balloting, schedules and articles to be placed in DLS, Wisconsin Library Bulletin and the LS Newsletter. All public and Parochial schools, and public libraries would receive the notices of the program. The Department decided to award a medal, along with the certificate, to winning authors. Mr. Brandt of the UW-Oshkosh Art Department was requested to fashion this medal, taken from Benjamin Archer's original drawing. At the 10th Annual Library Conference in September, 1979, I was asked to present the 1978 Golden Archer award to Scott Corbett for his Home Run Trick. Peter Spier received the Little Archer award for Oh, Were They Ever Happy. His letters to us were delightful and one ended with "It is at this time that I am once again aware of the good fortune to be one those lucky ones earning a living with a hobby".

From 1980 through 1985, Mrs. Archer and I were nearly out of the picture. As my workload at the high school grew, my involvement with the awards became less. A student from my school prepared the certificates for the 1979 awards so the program had become a lesson for our students. However, the stepparents could no longer manage the "kids". I could not bring them into my school so Mrs. Archer housed them in her Middleton home. She worked long hours in preparing the 1986 award - from preparing the ballots, typing all envelopes and sending them, receiving the ballots, tabulating the results, and notifying schools who responded. We shared in the costs of this because we did not want to use the GAA funds in the Foundation's account. Letters of anguish and what-to-do with our 10-year-old were heavy on heart and soul.

In the spring of 1987, Mrs. Archer turned all files over to me. We agreed that I would see about returning the award to the LS Department. Chancellor Penson in his response to me felt the program should continue but could offer no solution to our dilemma. In September, 1987, I asked Dr. Norma Jones, then Acting Director of Polk Library, whether the "kids" could go back home. The 1986 winning authors had been notified but they were still to receive their awards and certificates. UW-Oshkosh Continuing Education in its December 4, 1987 conference, accepted the Golden Archer Awards as a part of its program. It notified Robert Siegel for his Whalesong and Chris Van Allsburg for his Polar Express. Mrs. Archer presented the award to Mr. Siegel, this the 13th year, the beginning of the teens for the GAA. Chris Van Allsburg could not attend. From a letter of his to Marsha Rossiter of Continuing Education, Mrs. Archer read, "I am sorry that I cannot be with you today to personally accept the Little Archer award. It is very rewarding to be acknowledged by the group that I think of first as my audience -- children". That year the bronze medal was fashioned by William Leffin of the UW-Oshkosh Art Department. The newspaper accounts of that day reported that the awards program would be again under the aegis of the university library.

From 1987 through 1990, Dr. Jones, who supported the award in its infancy, placed the Golden Archers under the direction of Richard Dorsey, who had responsibilities in the EMC, now called the Educational Materials Collection. The winners in 1987: Sid Fleischman for Whipping Boy and Audrey Wood for King Bidgood's in the Bathtub participated in the Library Conference in 1988. The program slept from 1993 through 1995.

In January, 1994, Dr. John F. Berens, Executive Director of Libraries and Learning Resources sent a letter to school librarians, asking for an evaluation of the Golden Archers award program. The program had been placed "under review ". And this is where the family, WEMA, comes into the picture. Nancy Roozen, Chairperson of the Golden Archer Awards Committee, responded to Dr. Berens' request. She explained that WEMA's state board had agreed to bring the program under its sponsorship. In February of 1995, UW-Oshkosh's university library transferred relevant files, materials and the Foundation's remaining funds to the Committee.

Mrs. Archer is pleased with the face-lifting that our "kids", now in their 20's, have had. It appears that the new guidelines under WEMA's sponsorship will confirm the Golden Archer Awards as an important reading program in the state. I met with the committee in March, 1997. Members Mary Ann Blahnik, Julie Davis, Barbara Rosenthal, Pamela Penn and Margaret Williams showed wonderful enthusiasm and dedication to the program. Nancy Roozen, dedicated to GAA, indicated that Debra Walters, Robin Geltelman and Anne Wolter, too, made enthusiastic contributions to the program's development.

Some things are meant to be. In 1973 we were quite certain that the awards program could make a difference in the development of children's reading, that they become good readers to enjoy words and literature all their lives. To this end, Marion and I know that our "kids", now grown past teenage troubles, are with a very good family. And we wish WEMA all the best in this part of its service to the children and educators of Wisconsin.

Please email questions and suggestions to Golden Archer Committee Chair, Kim Christiansen.

The Golden Archer Award is sponsored by the Wisconsin Educational Media Association