Author Lee Bennett Hopkins has pledged to give the Penn State University Libraries his 18,000-volume book collection and correspondence papers from his lifelong career in children’s literature, the university announced this week.
According to the announcement, the children’s poetry and literature collection, valued at approximately $3.25 million, includes volumes from some of the most famous children’s poets and authors, including Nikki Grimes, Madeline L’Engle, and Maurice Sendak, many of whom have autographed their works.
In addition to the books, Hopkins has acquired rare personal correspondence with hundreds of other famous children’s literature authors, including Dr. Seuss and E. B. White. The correspondence was the result of a project Hopkins launched to learn more about the lives of these authors; these interviews were published in several volumes, the university says.
“I recognize that I’ve been fortunate to compile such an incredible and unique collection, and I want it to be available to scholars and students in the future,” says Hopkins, who holds a Guinness World Record as the most prolific anthologist of children’s poetry, the university notes. “People may never have the opportunity to lay hands on some of the correspondence and books I have in my collection. I want to give them that opportunity. I hope future generations—and the future of children’s literature—will benefit from what I offer. ”
The collection will be used for many purposes, the university says, from student and faculty research at Penn State to research by scholars from all over the world. The books also will be available to children from the community who tour the library with their schools or families. Students also will be able to use the collection to help prepare them to teach children with poetry and literature in the classroom.
“Lee’s collection is an extraordinary treasure for the history of children’s literature and the future of children’s education,” says Dean Barbara I. Dewey of the University Libraries, in the announcement. “The resources Lee has compiled are one-of-a-kind in the world and are critically important to the Libraries’ mission of scholarship and preservation of important historical documents. We are honored that Lee has chosen to entrust Penn State with the collection’s future care.”
The collection will be located in the Education and Behavioral Sciences Library as well as the Special Collections Library, both in the Paterno Library at University Park.
Notes Steven Herb, librarian and head of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Library, “Even in today’s digital age, literacy, orality and storytelling are fundamental to children’s development. This collection will not only reinforce this educational goal but also provide Penn State with some of the best resources to train future generations of teachers, librarians, and educators.”
Hopkins began his career as an elementary school teacher in New Jersey, and became a curriculum and editorial specialist at Scholastic after receiving his Masters at Bank Street College in New York City in 1968. He became a full-time writer and anthologist in 1976, and has written and edited numerous award-winning books for children and young adults, professional texts, and curriculum materials.
Throughout his life, he has advocated that poetry is an integral teaching tool. In 1993, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was created, becoming the first poetry award of its kind in the United States. The award is given annually to an American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of poetry for children published in the previous calendar year. The donated collection includes all of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winners’ works, many with autographs and personal notes.